Andrew Hozier-Byrne has been touring pretty much constantly since the summer in support of his breakthrough self-titled debut album, propelled by lead single “Take Me to Church” (that song with all those “amens”). His current string of US dates climaxed with a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, where Hozier humbly thanked everyone in his band, touring crew and the audience for all the work and dedication. The front row was packed with screaming young female fans but the sold-out venue was packed with wild fans of all ages, proof that Hozier has a huge following. In fact, the venue appeared pretty full already before the opener, George Ezra, who is also experiencing a quick-rising music career, even took stage. Ezra explained how he created his debut album Wanted on Voyage while trekking across Europe with a Eurail pass. That story helped explain some of his song titles, like “Barcelona” or for his biggest song, “Budapest”. His brief set was very well received by the crowd and he’s someone I would check out again (he has a solo headlining tour beginning in April).
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Little Daylight‘s Hello Memory is one of the more memorable pop albums to come my way in 2014 and it is one I find myself listening to more often than other favorites from last year. Their electro-pop is effervescent, highly infectious and danceable. The Brooklyn trio were opening for Jukebox the Ghost, a relocated-to-Brooklyn trio, on a recent string of dates (some are still coming up) and both performed in Connecticut for an all ages show on the second to last night in a cold, cold February. Jukebox the Ghost‘s own brand of piano-pop has made them a rising star as of late. Their 2014 self-titled release was initially out on Yep Roc Records but the band has since been signed to Cherrytree Records (home to Sting and Feist amongst others) and are planning to re-release the album in the near future. Together, in the Hat Capital of the World, the two bands, along with Secret Someones (minus their drummer) gave the youthful audience a memorable show.
I first saw Sleater-Kinney open for all-male band Pearl Jam back in 2003. Their rock was raucous, rough and impressive. I was fortunate enough to see them twice more before they disbanded in 2005. It’s hard to believe, but in the decade since then, there wasn’t any act who filled the hole left by Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. So, at the end of 2014, it was very exciting to hear that the original line-up were returning with a new album No Cities to Love and a tour to support it. Fortunately, they don’t sound like they were gone at all.
“The new songs are as gnarled and brazen as the rest of Sleater-Kinney’s catalog. They also reflect how 10 years have passed between Sleater-Kinney albums, as lyrics take on current economic insecurities (“Bury Our Friends” declares, “We live on dread in our own gilded age”) and ponder the band’s own future. “No one here is taking notice/No outline will ever hold us,” the band vows in “A New Wave.” During Sleater-Kinney’s absence, Ms. Brownstein found a new audience as a writer and star in the comedy series “Portlandia,” but Sleater-Kinney doesn’t play for laughs.”
The presence of open incandescent light bulbs on stage at the Appel Room (formerly Allen Room) enhanced the already gorgeous atmosphere of the Lincoln Center venue that overlooks Columbus Circle and Central Park South with its ebb and flow of headlights. At the same time, the atmospheric “baroque pop” of San Fermin (with a total of eight members) was enhanced by the presence of the six-piece Metropolis Ensemble (three brass/horns and three strings). San Fermin were showcasing songs from their forthcoming, second album Jackrabbit out in April on Downtown Records. Primary song-writer Ellis Ludwig-Leone was off on the side at his keyboards, remaining low-key, as his bandmates were the center of a vibrant, almost hour and a half, performance. The rest of San Fermin includes John Brandon on trumpet, Stephen Chen on saxophone, Rebekah Durham on violin, Michael Hanf on drums, Tyler McDiarmid on guitar, and Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate alternating on vocals.
The husband and wife duo of the Rails (James Walbourne and Kami Thompson) released their debut album Fair Warning last year on the resurrected Pink Label of Island Records. The Pink Label was home to the albums of Richard and Linda Thompson, Kami’s parents, so it was a fitting tribute. The album hasn’t made a huge splash amongst critics as there are few reviews online for it. But Fair Warning is a contemporary album of ballads that evoke bygone musical traditions from the British Isles.