I’m a latecomer to what is arguably New York’s most hyped band at the moment, and despite a perfectly competent set of delightfully incompetent messy punk-lite, there’s just no way they could have possibly lived up to the hype. Guitarist and lead singer Cassie Ramone riffed around as much as she could get away with in less than two minutes while sandwiched between fuzzy washes of guitar and equally fuzzy harmonized vocals. Whether the latter was deliberate or an unfortunate casualty of the house sound system, I can’t say; that’s one of the perils of the lo-fi world. Drummer Ali Koehler was the most intriguing of the bunch, head down and appendages smashing away with just a hair more precision than the tunes seemed to demand, sometimes able to drive things forward against all odds but sometimes overcome by the tangled power chords. I’d probably have found the apparent on-stage jitters perfectly charming were it not for my nagging suspicion that they’ve had a little too much buzz for a little too long for them to be genuine. I guess it’s not fair to hold the band members responsible for the weight of expectation here, but I was underwhelmed. Maybe it’s my fault for waiting so long to get around to them. I had the same problem when I finally went to see Shrek.
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This is what CMJ is all about: A band I’d been hearing about for a few years that hadn’t really captured my attention… until now. Jagjaguwar’s Parts and Labor are bound to make an extremely lasting impression going into 2009. Their sound was dense and intelligent, not banking on a bunch of imitations to create a solid sonic aesthetic, but based on noise built around brilliantly written songs. That’s the problem with a lot of the so-called “noise” bands today. They don’t stand for anything. Their sound is shallow, but Parts and Labors’ sound had depth—and there’s a clear demarcation between the two.
Kicking off their tour in proper fashion, Brooklyn’s Flying was a relief to say the least. Based around off-kilter synth with guitar parts that are reminiscent of their upcoming touring partners, Deerhoof – their set was a pleasant surprise and a band I will keep an eye on in the coming months. Some moments reminded me of Akron/Family, while others featured harmonies constructed around very structural riffing interplay. Not exactly taking on the role of the Brooklyn hipster, this trio looked like the music was the only thing they came to deliver—part of the appeal for me as soon as they walked onto the stage. My friend even looked at me and said something along the lines of, “these guys (and girl) look like they actually know how to play their instruments.” Well put.
Lawrence, Kansas noise-rockers, Boo and Boo Too were a bit overambitious to kick off CMJ musically for me. Trying a bit too hard to sound like the band whose venue they were playing (A Place to Bury Strangers), their songs came off as a watered down wall of noise. As the set went on the music gained more composure, and the rhythm section held it down while the guitars and vocals relied on the high end for an unpleasing static freak-out. Don’t get me wrong—that sound is right up my alley (I plan on attempting to withstand the brutal assault of Psychic Paramount later this week), but this music had no life to it.
Hip-Hop Renaissance: A Cultural Rebirth @ NYU Kimmel Center (Ft. Q- Tip, Jon Carmanica, Amanda Diva, Chuck Inglish, Nekessa Moody, Mikey Rocks, & Asher Roth
Although the panels weren’t at the top of my priority list this week, a chance to see Q-Tip and the Cool Kids speak together about the cultural rebirth of hip-hop is a no-brainer. The most interesting aspect they tackled was the impact of the internet within hip-hop, and how it can create illusions of grandeur—i.e. with the Cool Kids. They spoke about how, despite all their MySpace hits and the hyped reviews of their record, going out into the real world and playing was the actual test for them. Q-Tip spoke a lot about wishing hip-hop would get back to the music and stop being so much about the big business and the empire it has created. All in all, a worthy first stop in the CMJ Marathon.
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"We continue our discussion of the early episodes of Kentucky Route Zero by focusing on its third act.READ the article