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Monday, Dec 15, 2014
Ryan Adams released one of my favorite albums of the year and it was thrilling to hear the new material at his New York show.

When I caught Ryan Adams headlining set on the Friday evening at Newport Folk Festival earlier this year, I was stunned by his opening track “Gimme Something Good”. The song may have already been released as the lead single from his 2014 self-titled album, but I hadn’t heard it before that point. The song, with it’s garage rock, Petty-ish vibe, was a perfect gateway drug. When the album came out later in the summer, I quickly put it on regular rotation—so much so that it would be amongst my top three most-listened to albums this year (the other two would be First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold and The Gloaming’s self-titled debut). When it was announced he would be performing four shows in NYC, two acoustic nights at Carnegie Hall plus two full-band shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom, I of course had to check it out, even if I’m not very familiar with a lot of his older material.


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Friday, Dec 12, 2014
FKA Twigs released one of the best reviewed albums of the year, finishing in the top 10 of PopMatters' best albums of the year. We caught her performance at a small Brooklyn venue.

Tahliah Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, has one of the best reviewed albums of the year with LP1. It just made #8 on our best best albums of 2014 list. Last month, she performed two sold out shows in New York City, including one at Warsaw, a smaller venue that she easily sold out (the larger show was also sold out). Check out some photos below.


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Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014
Japanese music, specifically a shamisen performance, can be a hard sell initially, but a Westerner might find some similarities with Appalachian folk music.

Last year around Thanksgiving time, I was visiting Japan. I didn’t attend any kabuki or any noh performances nor did I check out any music (though Paul McCartney played there days before I arrived). I did however check out something that does translate well, giant robots. It’s not just that I’m not familiar with many Japanese bands, though few if any cross over into the US market, it’s that those theater productions are often lengthy which makes it difficult to approach (which section of the performance should I see?) and, in this case, the instrumental music doesn’t have a specific rhythm or catchy chorus for one to grasp onto. So I didn’t risk a show in Tokyo, but I was lucky to catch a rare and masterful set of shamisen performances in New York at the Japan Society.


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Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014
Bear's Den are an exciting, up-and-coming band on the Communion label, which might explain why they sound a bit Mumfordy, but they aren't as blustery fortunately.

UK band Bear’s Den receive a lot of comparisons to Mumford & Sons, in part because of their expressive banjo use and because they have released two EPs and an album on Communion Records, the label founded by one ‘Son’ Ben Lovett and Kevin Jones, who drums for Bear’s Den. Jones did change up instruments occasionally though with his bandmates, singer and guitarist Andrew Davie and Joey Haynes on banjo. Their live performance at New York City’s Warsaw venue included several other musicians (maxing out at nine people on stage), namely members of the opening act Dan Mangan + Blacksmith and later, their friend Remi Aguillela from the band Daughter. Dan Mangan and his band hail from Vancouver and hadn’t performed in New York in at least two years, and one fan near the front expressed her love for them and that she had been waiting for so long for their return.


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Monday, Dec 8, 2014
The Barr Brothers pooled a wide variety of musical influences, like desert rhythms and Icelandic dreamscapes, to create some of the most eclectic folk rock around.

Singer and guitarist Brad Barr and his brother Andrew on drums and banjo, as The Barr Brothers released their second album Sleeping Operator in October. The band, which also consists of harpist Sarah Page, organist Andres Vial and bassist Mishka Stein, have been on tour almost nonstop since early November promoting it. And their NYC stop brought them to the Bowery Ballroom for a sold-out Friday night show.


Their friend Leif Vollebekk opened for them, though I missed most of his set, and later on joined the Barrs on stage for a few songs. I had little familiarity with Vollebekk, but his sparsely folk album North Americana has earned scattered praise on the internet and he did maintain the attention of the crowd filling in the venue.


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