Category Archives: music

Listen Up: The Luyas and Some Community

The Luyas

The Luyas

I find that a lot of the bands I’m discovering and liking lately feature female vocalists. Some, like The Luyas’ Jessie Stein and Some Community’s Juliana Vacaro, sing in charmingly off-key, bird-like voices. Sometimes–more often with Stein–there’s a child-like quality to the vocals, and at other times–more often with Vacaro–there’s an underlying jaded melancholy.

I first discovered The Luyas when they opened for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The Paradise in October. [Check out my pictures from the show at QRO.] I went to the show for Pains, but I left thinking about The Luyas. I was struck by Stein’s voice and by the frequent and clever use of syncopated rhythms. The physical embodiment of their music for me is probably the Moodswinger (The Hoopsucker! The Hudswinger!… No no no… Coen Brothers tangent…), a copy of a 12-string electric zither originally designed for Liars.

Jessie playing the Moodswinger in 2008

Jessie playing the Moodswinger in 2008

The Luyas released their first album, Faker Death, in 2007. Their new album, Too Beautiful to Work, is due in February.

The Luyas – Too Beautiful To Work

The Luyas – Spherical Mattress

Brazil’s Some Community accompany Juliana Vacaro’s voice with guitars, keyboards, percussion, casiotones, and melodicas. Their current ep, RinoRino, is a little quirky, and at the same time, there’s something faintly and pleasantly familiar about songs like “Two Colours” and the beautiful “Tereza.” Has this band picked up on some element of popular songs I listened to as a kid in the 80s? Yeah, I think maybe they have. I can’t put my finger on what that is. It’s not something obvious–not a reference or a style. That’s good, because it means they’re doing something new.

Some Community-Young and Fresh

Some Community-Tereza

Listen Up: Lower Dens

Two of Stereogum’s top 20 overlooked albums of 2010, from Buke and Gass and Crocodiles, were in my (premature) best of 2010 list.  I came to new music kind of late in 2010, and a lot of good music came out last year, so I give myself a pass for missing a lot of things.  If I were to revise my list today, I’d keep those records on it, and the Buke and Gass album would keep its high spot on the list.

One album I didn’t hear in full until after posting my best of 2010 list is Lower Dens’ Twin Hand Movement.  This is an album that definitely belongs among my favorites for the year.

Their press sheet describes Lower Dens as a Baltimore band, led by weird-fi frontwoman Jana Hunter, that plays post-punk drone pop.  Okay, I guess somewhere in that description I start to get a hazy picture of what they really sound like.

I first discovered Lower Dens when I happened upon their 9-21-2010 Daytrotter Session, so that’s where I direct you first.  In the session, they play some of my favorites, including “Tea Lights” (love that beautiful, lilting guitar line, and the tone on the album version is especially lovely) and the fabulously titled “Two Cocks Waving Wildly at Each Other Across a Vast Open Space, A Dark Icy Tundra.”  After that teaser, you have to hear the whole album, on which you’ll be treated to gems like the glimmering, infectious “Hospice Gates,” and “Holy Water,” one of the first songs I’ve ever heard that I can compare with The Smiths’ “Oscillate Wildly” in that it’s so good that I didn’t notice on the first few listens that it’s an instrumental.

Twin Hand Movement was released in July of 2010, and Lower Dens have just released a new single, “Batman.”  They’re currently playing a handful of support dates in the Southeast with The Walkmen, and they hit SXSW this March.  They’re at the top of my list of bands to catch.

Lower Dens-“Tea Lights”

Lower Dens-“Hospice Gates”

Lower Dens-“Batman”

Top 15 albums of 2010

I was asked to compile a best of 2010 list for QRO, and what was a 10-song list has turned into 15.  It might have been 20–maybe next year’s list will be.  If I were to redo the list in a few days it might look a little different as these things change all the time for me, but anyway, here’s what I’ve got.

1. School of Seven Bells-Disconnect from Desire

2. Autolux-Transit Transit

3. Buke and Gass-Riposte

4. Land of Talk-Cloak and Cipher

5. Male Bonding-Nothing Hurts

6. Dum Dum Girls-I Will Be

7. Dom-Sun Bronzed Greek Gods

8. Twin Tigers-Gray Waves

9. Crocodiles-Sleep Forever

10. Interpol-Interpol

11. Warpaint-The Fool

12. No Age-Everything in Between

13. Wild Nothing-Gemini

14. Suuns-Zeroes QC

15. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti-Before Today

There are probably a bunch of great albums that came out in 2010 that I haven’t even heard.  Recommend some.

Picture progress

In addition to my various galleries at QRO, now and then you may find one of my photos for them elsewhere on their site. For example, their review of the Active Child remix of School of Seven Bells’ single “Heart Is Strange” features this image:

And then a couple of my pictures of Basia Bulat and Warpaint (both cropped…) showed up in their Austin City Limits preview.

I also recently sold a couple of my concert pictures. Time to get up and running for real. Photo prints make good gifts, right?

I have been busy

Yes, yes I have been busy.

I’ve covered a bunch of shows for the good folks at QRO Magazine including:

Autolux at the Middle East
8/27/2010 Autolux w/This Will Destroy You at The Middle East Downstairs

Interpol at MHOW

9/10/2010 Interpol w/Cloudland Canyon at The Music Hall of Williamsburg

School of Seven Bells at the Middle East
9/11/2010 School of Seven Bells w/Active Child at The Middle East Downstairs

Basia Bulat at TT the Bear's Place
9/21/2010 Basia Bulat and The Acorn at TT the Bear’s Place

The day of the Interpol show in Brooklyn I was invited in to the Matador Records office to help moderate a live video chat with Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler. It was all a bit off-the-cuff, and it was a lot of fun. The chat is archived here. I got a little tour of the Beggars Group office (I guess you’d call them Matador’s parent company) and met some of the very cool people who work there, too.

In amongst this hectic schedule of city hopping, picture taking, late nights, and hanging out with friends mixed with happy home-life and work work work, I joined friends Amy, Teresa, and Tomoko a few weekends ago for a couple breezy, decadent days at Top Notch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vermont. Ah Vermont… We drove up on Friday night and stayed at Teresa’s friends’ ski lodge at Killington, and then drove up to Stowe on Saturday. Saturday afternoon we each indulged in Mount Mansfield Sauchas. What are those, you ask? From the Top Notch site:

Purity and simplification were the inspiration for the creation of this truly unique treatment. Drawing from the Sanskrit term to purify, our Mount Mansfield Saucha session allows you to experience an uncomplicated but completely luxurious three-stage herbal body service. To begin, a sea salt exfoliation removes tired skin and improves circulation. Organic lavender buds are added and then crushed with the salt to provide a sweet aromatic explosion. We use hot towels to remove the salt, leaving your skin velvety soft. Then, you are wrapped in thick linen sheets that have steeped in our detoxifying blend of indigenous Vermont herbs and flowers. In conclusion you may choose a 25-minute, 50 minute or 80-minute full body aromatherapy massage. We have developed a custom blend of sage, lavender, cedar and sandalwood essential oils for a completely soothing experience.

Now that I think of it… somewhere I have a small vial of the sage oil that my therapist gave me at the end of my saucha! That evening we had cocktails by the firepit and enjoyed the view of the mountains as the sun set before heading into the dining room for dinner–homemade local tempeh, anybody? The next day we got our pedicures and manicures, went into town and picked up sandwiches and a few gifts for our loved ones, and then set off on our return to Massachusetts. It was a lovely getaway, and just the beginning of our celebration of Amy and Doug’s upcoming nuptials!

Last weekend my darling friend Sarah came down from Portland and we had a girls’ night out on Saturday. I had a hunch that the bar at Gargoyles would be a good spot for drinks after dinner, and it was. This coming weekend we’ll have family visiting from Pittsburgh (yay!), and on Sunday night I’m covering The XX, Warpaint, and Zola Jesus at The Orpheum. Phew! Good things are happening. Stay tuned!

AND… if you’re so inclined… you can now follow me on twitter: @terkitty. Yep!

Warpaint with Javelin and Beach Fossils at Great Scott, 8/15/2010

I should have written about this show right after it happened. I’ve been playing catch-up. But anyway… Warpaint!

I first heard about Warpaint from a couple of my New York Interpol friends. They described Warpaint as an all-female band that comes out on stage looking really pretty, and then rocks really hard. Another friend mentioned them shortly after that. After our trip to Pennsylvania, I was going through a bit of show withdrawal, and when I heard that Warpaint were playing at Great Scott the night of our return, I wanted to go. We got home just in time for me to pull together my camera and batteries and get to Great Scott before the show sold out.

The first opener, Beach Fossils, sounded very poppy to me–jangly 80s-conscious stuff, which is apparently all the rage at the moment. It didn’t do too much for me, but they weren’t atrocious. What they looked like (silly and 80s conscious) struck me about as much as their music… not much –AND their whole vibe made me feel old.

Javelin made me feel old in a different way. With Beach Fossils, I could get why people would like it. Javelin just seemed totally foolish to me–like they were getting away with something by pretending to be musical, cool, or even interesting. The first thing they brought on stage was a tower of big old broken (except for one, I think) neon spray-painted boom boxes. Oh boy. Their sound was just a mish-mash of samples and knob-twiddling and falling-apart (literally) percussion. Samples and knob-twiddling and percussion can result in something good, but this did not. It felt sloppy. Like Beach Fossils, I guess Javelin are considered up and coming. I thought they were embarrassing and pretty terrible.

Warpaint at Great ScottWarpaint

After those two openers, I might have expected Warpaint to be a disappointment, but they weren’t at all. I think the evening’s line-up was a real mis-match. Warpaint are going out with The XX in the near future, and that tour makes more sense to me. The vocals and the music come from a much deeper, darker place than anything that Beach Fossils or Javelin offer up. My friends who told me I’d be impressed by their musical chops were right on. These chickies can play. They’re really pretty badass. At least a few of them are multi-instrumenatalists. The bassist and drummer switched places after the first song, and at the end of the encore three of the four band members went at it on the drum kit–and what resulted was a controlled chaos, not just mere chaos.

Their first full-length, The Fool, is set to drop October 26th (October 25th in the UK). I’m looking forward to seeing them again at the Orpheum October 3rd.