Wednesday, February 28, 2007
1. Le Tryptique: FUJIYA & MIYAGI (Tirk Records / UK), whose album last year was on many critics best of 2006, are playing March 28, for example. Better get hoppin' on those tickets. And watch for shows here, which will be announced on Parisnormale if we can keep up with all this--which is great, surprising, and even a tad bit overwhelming.
2. La Générale, a squat whose life, I'm told, is rapidly expiring. Punk bands, electro and contemporary art expos. This is said to be Paris' answer to a contemporary art scene that has been nearly moribund for quite awhile, thanks to gentrification and other factors.
10-14 rue du Général Lasalle 75019
M° Belleville ou Pyrénées (ligne 11)
3. La Feline: Menilmontant bar with regular mainly rockabilly djs and live music. See my last post for more info.
4. OPA-Bastille: cutting edge mainly French indie rock and electro. See sidebar for more info.
5. Le Java: quite varying offerings, from indie rock to country, hip hop, electro and techno. Sidebar.
6. Le Klub: some harder rock here and a lot of djing. Sidebar.
Have a good week.
6, rue Victor Letalle 75020
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Calendar part I.
It's the last week of wintry February. But the trees are blooming, and the flowers sprouting--insanely!--up on the lush green pelouse at parc Buttes Chaumont (those little yellow and lavender dots in the photo at left are flowers, though I forget their botanically exact title). Spring is here???!!!!My indie dog, Mirth, certainly does like it (well, more precisely, she likes to sniff and pee on it). It's a nice week for an Indie Spring Break in Paris. Perhaps not enough body and jello shots for some of your wild tastes, but I'm sure you can improvise.
Basically, Monday, February 26 really pisses me off. There are at least three great shows running simultaneously, and I'm in such a dither over it, as mom would say. I'll be hitting Tobias Froberg reluctantly, though I'm excited to hear him.
**=ouch! Hot pick! As Robert Smith would wail, "Hot, Hot, Hot!"
Addresses and other info about each club can be found in our right-hand side bar.
Questions? Want to buy us drinks, give us guitar, accordion, or voice lessons, or give us gifts? email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
La Fleche D'Or (20me) (No Cover!) Equally exciting offerings.
Mon., Feb. 26: Tahiti Boy's February residency continues.
Wed., Feb. 28: An impressive little lineup for Icelandic Air night at the Fleche.
Holmes, from Vänersborg/Göteborg, Sweden, play indie twang-pop reminiscent of early Tim Carroll, some Whiskeytown (Ryan Adams’ band before going solo) and the Old 97’s—but with Damien Jurado on vocals.
THE JAI-ALAI SAVANT (pronounced hi-a-lie- sa-vant). This
Loney Dear (Subpop/Dear John), from
Thur., March 1: Black Daniel (
Fri. and Sat. March 2 and 3: The Monroes (NL) are a Dutch group that serves up solid, soulful garage rock laced with female vocals sometimes too lovely for the wailing and screeching guitar chords that only reluctantly take their background role in the mix.
Mon., March 5: Li-lund. Lo-fi electro, with influences ranging from Blonde Redhead and Shannon Wright, withsparklingly clear female vocals one finds in twee such as Rose Melberg (Tiger Trap). Newman (Herman Dune) lends his speak-sing to the mix.
Tues., March 6: Minitel (Fr) dub rock; Tinseltown, female vocals sound like a Frankensteinian plot to transplant the voice of Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O into Tori Amos, with some nice light pop accompaniment--inoffensive.
**Thur., March 8: Jamie T (
**Fri., March 9: The Debretts (
Sat., March 10: "Rare Groove Day" music sale and then djs at night : Entrée 1euro de 12h >> 19h according to available space inside.
12H-19H : CONVENTION DE DISQUES SPECIALISÉE 60's & 70's MUSIC SOUL-FUNK-JAZZ-POP-ROCK-AFRO-LATIN-BRASILIAN-SOUNDTRACKS & MORE ...
Mon., March 12: Indie French night. Go here to see links to the French indies.
Tues., March 13: Techno: Bleccccch!
Wed., March 14: Bikini Machine (FR)--"soul rock." Plus other French indies.
**Mon., Feb 26: Bromheads Jacket: Indie Brit punk-pop that has been said to be notoriously devoted to the 70s British punk eruption. However, some of their slower stripped down songs recall mid-career Billy Bragg.
**Wed., Feb 28 The Junior Boys: Here's how Pitchfork described their 2006 EP "So this is Goodbye": "its brittle rhythms and gleaming synths coalescing with the dark shapes and city lights in constant renewal on the other side of my window, the unfamiliarity of my surroundings giving it all a further resonance..." and "glowing synth lines and frigid percussions."
**March 13 : The Supersuckers
If you like to rock and you miss this, well then you super-suck!
**March 16: Kristen Hersh. The former Throwing Muses bassist has amused us with a string of beautifully crafted and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter albums. Somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Will Oldham's long lost female twin separated at birth.
Le Divan du Monde (18me)
**Mon., Feb. 26: Tobias Froeberg: Another Nordic indie singer-songwriter in the elastic mold of Nick Drake, Jose Gonzales, and I’m hearin’ pas mal de Simon and Garfunkle and Cat Stevens in it too. And after all, Froeberg's delicate and searching For Elisabeth Wherever She Is (2004) seems a clear hearkening back to S&G's song "For Emily, wherever I may find her."
**Mon., Feb. 26: My Brightest Diamond
Tues., Feb. 27: Explosions in the Sky (honorable mention; check them at myspace—I think it’s sold out. But when there’s a will to stand outside the Maroquinerie repeating “billet, billet?” on a seemingly endless loop, there’s a billet.)
Fri., March 2: Congopunq: Pop Punk / Regional Mexican / Tropical. Though they’re French J, they seem pretty interesting. Check them on myspace. Hell, I'll go if you buy my ticket.
Sat., March 3: No Water Please
**Sun., March 4: Young Blood Brass Band
Mon., March 5:Babet: Uh, I don't know about this. Punchy French female vocals that, for me, seem to conjure up a French singer on a Vegas stage opening for the Rat Pack--to a folky perky background accompaniment.
**Wed., March 7:Brakes: Strange hybrid, but I like it. We're talking a meaner version of Franz Ferdinand but then the next song (such as "On Your Side") might be closer to indie/alt country. Hard to pin down and it demonstrates the kind of campy humor of their compatriots Art Brut. Cursive (Omaha, US) opens for Brakes. Here's what critics have been saying about them: “Kasher has traded such woe-is-me sentiment for a set of more engaging musical arrangements, applying booming gospel voices and Dixieland horns to his band’s spastic art-rock posturing” - Spin
Thur., March 8: Leave: ?
**Fri., March 9:Jamika: Hip Hop, electro, dub, spoken word. Highly acclaimed African-American poetess transplanted in
**March 14: High Llamas: I thought this was Belle and Sebastian when I first heard it. Light and creative, the latest album (Can Cladders, on Drag City) is woven with strings, tambourines and banjos. Skip the Prozac today and try this instead.
March 26: Trans Am, Electro-Indie Rock.
Also watch for weekly announcements about Le Tryptique, OBA-Bastille, Le Java, and La Generale. See the sidebar for more info about these venues.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I wondered how we had aged apart. How would we, once such close friends, receive each other at this reunion? Would we quickly fall back into our mutual understandings as if we had only parted yesterday? Would we be standoffish? Would we even recognize one another? Once I had loved them; they had definitively won my heart with a cover of Joy Division's classic "She's Lost Control" (see video of that cover at end of this review). But long-distance relationships are notoriously hard to maintain.
Ten years later I don't think they've changed so much. I ended up liking them, though, it's true, somewhat less than I did before.
This D.C. post-hardcore band has been known for for its double bass attack, sonic walls of reverbating guitar that appear like cliffs in a musical score and then violently drop off into pianissimo background ravines for the distinctive vocals of frontman Scott McCloud, his nasal almost drawling style uncannily recalling The Fall's Mark E. Smith (though the likeness is sometimes easily overlooked because of the very different background accompaniment to each of these singers). McCloud did the talking with the audience, and didn't come off arrogantly,sometimes expected of a lead singer, even practicing his French with the audience in a gesture of goodwill. And his accent is pas mal du tout.
All of that style re-emerged as if perfectly pickled and re-opened ten years later. The post-hardcore burst of loud guitars, the Fugazi-like relentlessness of some songs or choruses, the soft-loud-soft cycles, the transcendence of three chord, loud, driving punk--all of this made for an experience that can border on the hypnotic. I found myself nodding my entire body at mid-speed, which if you were to transplant me onto a city sidewalk would surely make me a dead giveaway for an escaped mental patient.
I realized there is something sinisterly expressionist about the sound GVSB produces in the end. It seems pent up, potentially dangerous. It's a person with grievances, issues. It is somewhat monotonous in the vocal style and the accompaniment and seems to build in aggression to the point of release, again and again, to the point of exhaustion--a bit like the exhausting hardcore that preceded it. In that sense it's cathartic. Perhaps Freud would've approved of its re-directing these darker impulses into sound and speak-sing.
Nor are the lyrics particularly cheery, despite their openness to poetic interpretation. "As out there as anyone
In the black hole dream," McCloud screeches in "Park Avenue. "I know you can still feel me/In the black hole scene/Do ya still dream/Check ya pulse/Read my mind/You got the access/Treat me like I don't exist. Does the speaker of this poem feel dead, a shell in a scene that has sucked his soul away as if he had gotten to close to a black hole? The sound and lyrics work together in a dark expressionism.
While I, too, approve of this highly expressionistic sound, in the end I realized this is mood music. That is not necessarily a criticism, but if you're looking for levitation try Belle and Sebastian, whose sound, it should be noted, is often much airier than their lyrics. It's good to know that old friends can still have an important place in your life. But I'm still not planning on going to that high school reunion.
indie rock, indie, paris, concert, review, girls against boys, GVSB, la maroquinerie, jayson harsin
Monday, February 19, 2007
Nouveau club dans le quartier Rex, Pulp, Palace ...
| 142, rue montmartre|
Par de la Villette
211, av Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, France - 01 42 01 12 12
and Le SHOWCASE SOUS LE PONT ALEXANDRE III
Called a discotheque by some reviewers, this place does have indie concerts and djs:
article about it in French from Libe' http://www.liberation.fr/culture/tentations/224835.FR.php
Have Fun, Parisnormaliens!--Jayson
Saturday, February 17, 2007
also Published by Blogcritics magazine
"Those boots don't look good on you."
"Those faded jeans look bad."
"Americans have bad taste."
"You're in your late 30s and you still dress like a student!”—recent generous observations immediately prior to style counsel by very franche French female friends, who mean no harm at all in such gentle criticisms; au contraire. Yet these "observations" have spurred a meditation on French-American (actually indie American)style relations, and on an existential crisis to boot (please, no puns).
Due to some unexpected events in my life, lately I've had the opportunity to meet more French people than I have in the previous two years in Paris. I have to say that it's not usually the men (though they may be thinking it) that find my style pitoyable and in need of cultural surgery.
Granted, I don't have that many French friends yet, but the female ones I have have felt comfortable after awhile to mention that they don't like my style, or, perhaps more to the point, don't think I have any. My "problem" is then frequently attributed not to me, but to American culture—we just don't have good taste, poor slobs like us. Luckily I receive the pity of having been a naive victim of cultural conditioning. It’s not my fault: it’s my culture’s. As if I even follow the dictates of "normal" in my country of birth.
Surely you're tantalized, gentle reader. What is so "faux pas" then about my style?
Answer: My slip-on black boots are abominable. My choice vintage t-shirts little more than a textile of mucous slipped over the torso. My metal-zippered navy deliveryman's jacket hopelessly, tastelessly proletarian. And jeepers, how my pencil pants once revered by the Clash only offend the French peepers! Don't I read any fashion magazines? Ever charitable and believing it is never too late for a human being to receive a proper education, my friend offered to take me shopping one day and explain what looks good and what does not. I'm eagerly setting money aside for that lesson. But how did this happen? Actually, it has very little to do with sporting mainstream American style (though the French don't like that much, either). Allow me to reminisce for a moment.
Reminiscences and Influences
I basically have identified my style with certain music subcultures since the 1980s, when VANS and West Coast punk and new wave washed through the Mid-West and gave me an opportunity to distinguish myself from the mainstream that I found so boring and oppressive—all over the country, not just in the Midwest, which is ever the American whipping boy of the rest of the country and world. That style then began to merge and alternate in a sartorial syncretism with the influence of British new wave, mod revival, and its dark offshoots in bands like the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen (photo on the left), Joy Division, then the Smiths. As Joe Pernice has said of the Smiths, these bands are how I survived high school. Paisley or other striking textile designs, un-tucked, baggy army-type pants and their polar opposites, industrial/clunky/doc marten etc. shoes and boots, wing-tips, anything with thick soles, and of course Chuck Taylor converse. With this equipment for living, we somehow dodged the seemingly endless slings and arrows of homecoming kings and queens, sports cults, and innumerable other rituals of mind-numbing conformity.
At university (as Europeans say) in the 90s, the many experiments of indie rock were emerging from post-punk bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Yo la Tengo, Guided By Voices, Jawbox, and so on. The style that corresponded with these music cultures was a bricolage of thrift store detritus. Witness Kurt Cobain (right), who was well-known for mining the thrift stores in Seattle for his wardrobe. Recycling polyester and pencil pants from the seventies; house dresses for girls, shirts with squared off tails which were not to be tucked in, mohair sweaters, and anything with a metal zipper—but really just about anything that looked “interesting,” which was/is open to wide interpretation. This music subculture spearheaded the retro revival, which is still going on in the recycling of seventies t-shirts and their iron-on images and slogans, not to mention the reproduction of seventies sneakers and running shoes. The tight-fitting t-shirt and Dickies pants, perhaps with Doc Martens or VANS was and still is the indie uniform. Like many others, I continue to dress like that, albeit with twists depending on the audience and expectations (I don't normally wear indie suits to funerals).
"Americans don't have good taste."
Never mind that I regard my 70s t-shirt collection with the pride in selectivity akin to that of a collector of Monet or Edward Hopper. Never mind that exquisite selectivity proudly, gleefully presents itself in bilingual puns on the shirts themselves sometimes, as if targeted perfectly at my local audience: "Door County, Wisconsin: Come Smell Our Dairy Air!"(See photo at left) It's all lost on them.
Recently a female French colleague at the university told me I didn’t look all that professorial: “Jayson, tu as l’air d’un jeune etudiant aujourd’hui (“You look like a young university student today.”). She said it with a smile, but the policing was obvious. I was a threat to the authority and respect on which she depended for meaning in her everyday life. I muttered something about having nothing but scorn for mainstream sartorial codes and the authority they try to produce (for some who don't deserve it). To which she in turn reminded me, “Oh, but they’re necessary!” Of course, you wouldn’t want to perform your authority and knowledge through what you say and do. You need a power suit or a grande dame’s sweater to back it up. Again, that attitude is not so different than what you find in many other societies, but its ubiquity here, with very few exceptions, is what surprises me.
This conflict in Franco-American style (even if I don't consider mine representative of all Americans) actually has deep roots caught up in each country's effort to construct its national identity. In Gordon Wood's classic Creation of the American Republic, for example, we learn that the founders of the American Republic exercised great care in discussing and hoping to avoid the cultural weaknesses of France, among other European foils, which they thought had dangerous implications for citizenship and government.
“Jefferson, viewing the new republics while standing amidst the pomp and debauchery of Paris remained calm and sanguine,” Wood writes. “America—by contrast—still seemed the land of happy frugal yeomen.” Similarly, Thomas Shippen, something of a Philadelphia aristocrat himself was presented by Thomas Jefferson to the Court at Versailles in 1788 (see image of courtier at right). But the “magnificence and elegance repulsed him,” as chasing after the tinsel of life led to a kind of depravity and delusion, he said in a popular American perspective of the time. In France, the king’s head was offed, but did the people continue to look reverently to his robes? Have you ever noticed that even the homeless men don jackets they’ve proudly scooped up off the dookie-bedizened sidewalks. Not going to find that in the U.S. But is that superior style? Or just the residue of mindless tradition?
The inability of some French to acknowledge that their bourgeois values and tastes are not universal is perhaps also partly the stinking, if somehow invisible, detritus of French colonialism and its role in the production of French national identity. "You have no style," "Americans have bad taste." It's like Colonel Kurtz sailing into the deep barbaric bowels of the Congo to give those untutored natives the Enlightenment diuretic, as obviously necessary for good health as a smallpox vaccine (I'm aware that it was the Belgians there, but you get the figure). French national identity, only truly constructed with the vigor and assistance of burgeoning mass media (such as newspapers, even catalogues later) in the 19th century, was founded on its difference from the brutes, as were some other European nationalist projects.
Another thing I get from the French, and less so but still a bit in the U.S., is that your age corresponds to certain styles, like 32/0 degrees does to freezing. Something is badly, even sadly amiss when a Frenchman over thirty is not wearing a zip-up sweater, dress pants or new jeans, and the latest style of shoes. A silk cravate is the icing on the cake. But really the key is "new." Old and worn is highly frowned upon. Old faded Levis that are sold for twice or three times their original price in Copenhagen and Berlin are only the object of scorn or pity in Paris (yes, only on the whole, not with every single Frenchman/-woman). If you want to fit in, keep the consumer society roaring and buy, buy, buy—new. And there's nothing superficial about it. It jibes with widely assumed notions of cultivation, that there are proper ways for behaving and presenting oneself, and they are universal. Designers supposedly have found the sartorial equivalent of the philosopher’s stone, and they now can convert sundry materials into styles more and less truly "feminine" and "masculine" (concepts that are perhaps even more essentialized in France than in the U.S. and many other places).
To get an idea of the clash between indie and traditional French style, consider, for example, the photo (on the right) of the indie rock style that is found widely in the metropoli and college towns of the U.S. and Europe, here modeled by lead singer for the Icelandic group Mum, Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir. Vintage sweater-dress, red wine tights, and faded Chuck Taylor high tops. Call me crazy: I think it’s hot. And the French do indeed call me crazy. Compare it with the one on the left, an image that is widespread in Paris, with minor variations.Something that I find particularly bizarre here is that I know many French women and men who love indie music. They buy it, and they attend its artists' concerts. But if Sufjan Stevens, an indie-dressing man if I've ever seen one, were to hit on any of his female French fans with any success, I'm afraid he'd need a makeover beforehand, unless of course the ladies had the quite possible idea that they could teach him how to really dress (see Sufjan just below and to the left).
The cult of distinction remains quite powerful in France, as its—some would say the world's—greatest sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, has written about and critiqued for its role in the way economic power legitimates itself through symbolic power—such as style, taste, and manners. In the U.S., the great Norwegian American sociologist of the early 20th century, Thorstein Veblen saw something similar in the U.S., which he called "conspicuous consumption," a phenomenon whereby people rising in fortunes would try to symbolically seek that recognition through consuming and showing off expensive products. It also allowed some to play the part of parvenus infiltrating circles socially that might have economic benefits and opportunities. This is why an old friend from graduate school who is now an agent in Hollywood drives a new Lexus even though he can't really afford it. To him, it's a symbol of opportunity, of what he does not have economically but which symbolically he desires and might just get through the performance of driving the car, along with a whole set of other presentational requirements, especially sartorial. It’a kind of investment in the futures market. He is not alone in bearing such symbols.
And yet, in a decidely un-scientific claim I would say there is greater stylistic variation in the U.S., especially in urban areas and college towns where subcultures flourish, despite the conformist Puritan residue in some places. There is great pressure to conform in the U.S. But it is also a country of immigrants, a mixing of different cultural heritages, hybridity, strong individualism and weak State (by comparison to nations like France). There is always Marlon Brando in "The Wild One," a James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause," a Ducky in "Pretty in Pink," and an Enid in "Ghost World" (see "Ghost World" photo, left). There's always a resistance to the norm, a sense that the crowd is lonely despite the seeming comfort in the salutes to Orwellian homogeneity. The U.S. of the mid-20th and early 21st century is not a country of multiple political parties and positions, as one finds in Europe, but socio-culturally there is great variation from youth and adult subcultures in punk, indie rock, electronica, techno, hip hop, country and regional cultural differences from crew neck sweaters neatly tied over well-tucked East Coast oxfords that find their way to the symphony to cowboy boots and bolo ties that frequent the current swing dance halls and rodeos. There are proud and sometimes deliberate differences across American culture and style. A wide range of them too.
More radical stylistic difference elsewhere, perhaps. But still the issue at bottom is the recognition one demands in a bricolage of difference. One may say it's a personal choice. I like what I like and the rest of you can take a popular four-letter word and add "off." The pleasure of style is for that someone somehow an atomistic pleasure, with no dependence on the outside world, except insofar as the very choice of style and its pleasure is defined on its difference from something more popular. Okay, maybe. But then there's the perhaps more likely scenario that those who choose to present themselves differently have one part pleasure in the choice of style and one part pleasure in the recognition from others that they are making a critical statement, are rejecting something, are expressing an identity that does not respect a norm. That is very hard to get in France, I would hazard, because it seems so strange that one would deliberately dress the way many do in indie rock circles. Classic punk is extreme enough to have a clear message in a mohawk and safety-pinned pants or even lips. But the irony of indie is like all irony, easily missable. The t-shirts, the vintage clothes are different, but not always obviously a well-constructed choice reflecting a different aesthetic. They are easily determined by their on-lookers as being the sad products of bad style parenting--period. And again, it's perhaps unfair to pick on the French here.
Not just France, but...
To be fair, my father could not stand my long hair in college, to the point of threatening not to come to my graduation, even though I was graduating with high academic honors. Both parents can not understand why a young professor would not want to distinguish himself in tweed jackets, nicely ironed oxford shirts, ties, pleated pants, and polished "dress" shoes. And they are not alone. They are aware of norms that have instructed them on how to fit in and succeed, and coming from rural areas they adapted quickly to the strictures of urban business culture and its overlapping social life. "Fight Club's" statement about Ikea, khakis and suits as the symbols of an empty life are lost on them, as they are even on some viewers and admirers of the film.
I'm being a bit hard on the French here. After all, every society has by definition its norms that seem natural. Besides, there are scores of things I like very much about France and the French, just not their sense of style.
But really, the surprising thing now is that I could ever be surprised by such reactions to my most superficial forms of presentation. I am probably never going to un-trap myself of my choice vintage thrift store trappings. Snap-button western shirts, solid-color Ben Sherman work chemises, and any other odd-printed textiles; faux Doc Martens, cowboy boots; seventies tees, Dickies and old Levis; horn-rimmed glasses; running shoes from 1972 that weren't very good for running then or now; lounge-leather smoking jackets; spiked or mop hair, sideburns; and tattoos over 10 years old—with a little luck, I am going to be dressing like an old American man from 1972 until I'm an old man in 2042, whether younger people are copying me or not. So I better get used to the reactions (which are partly what I want anyway, right?), because there's no sign that the world will get used to me. Certainly not the French.
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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Due to a computer data snafu (it was deleted--note the lack of responsibility conveniently provided by the passive voice), the calendar isn't going to appear except in bits and pieces this month. So here's a shot at the next couple of weeks.
If January got off to a slow start, wow: February is hot and it looks like March just keeps getting hotter. Go global warming in indie Paris! (Kidding, of course: Go green, Parisnormaleans, go green!)
La Fleche D'Or
Feb 17: FOALS (UK), plus Shit Disco (word has it they're The ShXX--yes, the bad pun is my favorite genre of humor). Punk-funk and math rock, Foals are another example of how indie music scenes have rediscovered dance. Gang of Four revved up and wildly complicated. Early electro-techno German influences, but that doesn't quite capture it either. Better give it a listen. Popular in the UK, SD is one of many in the new generation influenced by the Gang of Four and The Jam.
Feb 19: EF (Sweden) Plus
TAHITI BOY AND THE PALMTREE FAMILY Feat. TUNDE Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) : "ef was formed in Gothenburg, Sweden in may 2003. We met under quite human circumstances in may 2003, and soon we stood in a small basement and created quite heavy music. It didn't take long for us to find that melodies, emotions and explosions was more interesting. ef use three guitars, bass, drums, organs, glockenspiel, accordion and a lot of effects to create the soundscapes." Plus from Myspace: "People often say we have the melodies of Explosions in the sky, the heaviness from Cult of Luna and the energy of Drive Like Jehu. A perfect blend! Other bands often mentioned: Godspeed you black emperor, Mogwai and Sigur Rós."
TV on the Radio is well-known. Not sure what to expect of their fearless leader TUNDE Adebimpe. But I reckon it'll be interestin'. Check the kudos for the latest TVOTR sorti: "The latest experiment from TV on the Radio goes horribly right." A- "The disc might be the most oddly beautiful, psychedlic and ambitious of the year...Consider your mind blown."-Entertainment Weekly
Feb 14: The Fuzztones: These guys have been called "the gurus of grunge and garage." For good reason. They've inspired hundred of bands (and not a few derrieres thought to be unshakeable) since they started on NYC's Lower East Side 26 years ago. Their current tour is proudly called "Horny as Hell." A good way to spend Valentine's Day without a sweetie. No hand-holding expected here, but people might jump all over you.
Feb 15: Les Inrocks: The Inrocks brings us Blood Arm from LA, U.S. Annointed Franz Ferdinand's favorite band, their last album was called, with no hyperbole whatsoever, 24 karet gold and given 4.5/5 stars. Eminently danceable, these guys often remind me of the Clash circa "This is the Radio Clash." Incontournable if you like that sort of thing.
Feb 20: Bonobo (Ninja Tune). Ambient, Chill, Electronica. This is what happens when you give some keyboards, guitars, and a lot of other high-tech toys. Chill soundscapes.
Feb 26: My brightest diamond (Asthmatic Kitty). Another one outta Brooklyn. And yet most of them sound different than the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Ain't no sound. Certainly not from MY Brightest, whose atmospheric, experimental indie pop is anything but packaged. Powerful yet disciplined, Shara Worden's voice and songwriting makes me think of Chicago's Diane Izzo mixed with Tori Amos' alter ego. I like the jazzed up piano and vocals, which progressively unjazz themselves to a stop, and the fresh experiments with the string family (cello, viola, violin), in songs like "Riding Horses," which sounds at times like "Eleanor Rigby" with the Izzo/Amos vocals and strings. Try this drummer for a different march.
Feb 21: Girls vs. Boys. I shared playgrounds with these guys in the nineties, in Chicago and Lawrence, Kansas. The only better name for a band at the time would've been "Girls Kiss Boys." What? You didn't play that on your playground? Ah yes, the band: they were royalty of indie rock's noise family tree during the nineties, the heirs to Fugazi and Sonic Youth, and many people still think they hold up. Their contribution to a Joy Division tribute album in the 90s remains one of my favorites: "She's Lost Control." If you want yer old school cred, better skeedaddle over to the Maroq.
Feb. 22 Decembrists (Capitol/Kill Rock Stars): Not necessarily fans of the wintery month, this group's name partly refers to the 1825 Russian army revolt against absolutism. Ergo, they give you light and snappy rhythms seething up from below (or from the side? would the army be partly below and to the side?). How else shall we place this product? Organs, acoustic guitar, light electric gheee-tar licks, snare drummer from James, vocals from Neutral Milk Hotel and James again. Mmm mmm Good. Revolt used to be so easy before internet surveillance.
Feb 19 Pop Levi: Synth pop with a distinctive indie voice. Nice xylophones (easily one of the most fetishized indie instruments of the moment, and for good reason) and textured, elongated "ah, ah" back vocals. Up, Up and away:in a word, levitating.
Feb 21 Acoustic Ladyland: Darlings of British critics, this bunch was called one of five groups not to be missed in 2005 by the Observer Monthly and the Guardian. Punk funk/jazz/rock. Judge for yourself in this video.
Feb 26: Bromheads Jacket: Indie Brit punk-pop that has been said to be notoriously devoted to the 70s British punk eruption. However, some of their slower stripped down songs recall mid-career Billy Bragg.
Feb 28 The Junior Boys: Here's how Pitchfork described their 2006 EP "So this is Goodbye": "its brittle rhythms and gleaming synths coalescing with the dark shapes and city lights in constant renewal on the other side of my window, the unfamiliarity of my surroundings giving it all a further resonance..." and "glowing synth lines and frigid percussions."
Divan Du Monde
Feb 16: Like the Gypsy stuff from Gogol Bordello to the Emir Kusturica and Tony Gatlif films? Check the “Jam Tsigane” at 19h and at 21h you get the Tsigane allstars, a rotation of djs mixing gypsy sounds.
Feb 26 Tobias Froeberg: Another Nordic indie singer-songwriter in the elastic mold of Nick Drake, Jose Gonzales, and I’m hearin’ pas mal de Simon and Garfunkle and Cat Stevens in it too. And after all, Froeberg's delicate and searching For Elisabeth Wherever She Is (2004) seems a clear hearkening back to S&G's song "For Emily, wherever I may find her."
Point Ephemer (coming asap)
But for now try:
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Rockin’ my iPod on shuffle (some old, some new, some borrowed, some blue):
[WARNING: Do not listen to all of these songs in one sitting or your mind/heart will instantaneously self-combust]
* Cat Power —Colors and the Kids, from the album Moonpix (Matador) — This is one of those songs that gets better every time I listen to it, but then again, bittersweet has always been my style. Chan croons in her heart-wrenching, yet somehow peaceful voice: “it's so hard to go in the city / 'cause you want to say hello to everybody / it's so hard to go into the city / 'cause you want to say 'hey I love you' to everybody.” I’m not sure there’s a better city in the world to drive that point home than
* Neutral Milk Hotel — Oh Comely — Oh my my my! Who really knows what Jeff Mangum is twangily (yeah, I made up that word) belting out, but whatever it is, I feel it. Many people say this entire album (In The Aeroplane Over The Sea) is about Anne Frank, but honestly, I’m not really sure it matters. Even without knowing the meaning behind this song, it leaves me speechless every time. I’m a girl who’s down for good lyrics and a nice message behind them, but sometimes that’s just beside the point.
* Smog — To Be Of Use — If you’re into naked, lo-fi roc, Bill Callahan is definitely your man- just a guitar and a sweet, slow voice. At some point in our lives (for me, right now), we have this longing in us that we can never quite explain. Listen to this song, and you’ll finally have your answer. You’ll realize that your burning desire is simply to be of use, plain and simple: "Most of my fantasies are of / to be of use / to be of some, hard, simple, undeniable use". But then it ends, and you’re lost again. Repeat?
* Dirty Three — Rain On — The first time I heard this song, it was love at first listen… seriously. I believe I can be quoted as saying, “Wow. This has to be the most perfect introduction to a song… ever (and it's a huge deal for me to praise an artist like that who is not Cat Power). Rain On plays with your heart; the intro teases your emotions like it's about to reveal some big secret, but then decided not to- over and over again. There’s just something about this instrumental Aussie trio that really makes a place come alive; they are all over the place, yet fluid at the same time. Listening to them makes you love and appreciate your surroundings, really notice everything- the chocolate smudged in the corner of a child’s grin, the way the sun hits certain parts of buildings, the surprisingly comforting closeness of the person sitting next to you, etc. I attribute it mostly to the violin, one of the most under-used, under-appreciated instruments ever in present day, non-classical music (in my humble opinion), which is simultaneously seductive and innocent, just like this song.
* Brightblack Morning Light — Star Blanket River Child — These guys (two homeless friends from
* Broken Social Scene — Almost Crimes (Acoustic Version)—Broken Social Scene is a music collective with over twelve rotating members (you never really know who you’re going to get), and they never let me down. Female vocals range from the likes of Feist, Amy Milan, Mirah, and others (all highly recommended), but Leslie Feist graces us with her presence on this acoustic version. As she serenades, “We’ve got love and hate; it’s the only way,” I can’t help but believe her. Life, like this song, is a bittersweet game of love and hate; it's up to you to decide which to focus on.
* Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Antennas to Heaven — I originally started listening to Godspeed because my roommate told me it would motivate me while writing papers, and it worked, but I slowly became addicted, paper time or not. This instrumental piece is messy yet seamless, elegant yet ferocious- --a whirlwind of emotions, if you will. At twenty minutes long, it takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride from the country beginning to the French children singing in the middle to the instrumental finale, while still leaving you craving more. Put simply, this song satisfies my greedy desire to have all emotions wrapped up in a nice little bundle of a song.
* The Whitest Boy Alive — Fireworks — Contrary to what the title might suggest, this is not a bad attempt at a white rap group. Ever listen to Kings of Convenience? Take the mood of Kings of Convenience, multiple it by ten, add a spoonful of happiness and a pinch of funk, and you’ve got The Whitest Boy Alive.
* Múm — The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records — As if enough good music hasn’t already come out of Iceland, this group makes for great background music while you’re chillaxin (yes, I'm a victim of the Snoop Dogg industry), mixing both electronic and acoustic elements. The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records is pure emotion- an upbeat yet mellow instrumental song, which throbs with a sweet layer of atmospheric vocals. When listening to this song, everything else just seems to fade away.
* Joanna Newsom — Peach,
* CocoRosie — K-Hole — Seeing as how these ladies recorded their first album (which this song is on) in the bathroom of their small Parisian apartment in Montmartre (using random items/toys for the music), I can totally relate to why they’re as quirky as they are. This satirical duo amazes me once again with K-Hole, a seemingly unrelated string of phrases that somehow come together to flow like a normal song. One may ask whether drugs are involved? My guess is yes, and, in all honesty, I’m not really sure it matters.
Oh yeah, and they’ll be in
* The Blow — Babay (Eat A Critter, Feel Its Wrath) — The lead singer of The Blow is a former member of The Microphones (who I love et j'adore!). If you listen to The Microphones a lot, you can hear the influence; however, The Blow has a sound all their own; I like to call it "smart-pop." It’s incredibly upbeat with surprisingly sad (perhaps ambiguous) lyrics. It’s pretty much the perfect music for people like me (those who listen to sad music but tend to be in denial about it).
* Ratatat — Seventeen Years — This is exactly the music you need when changing metro lines at places like Chatalet or Montparnasse (yes, this is your opportunity to fantasize about living In Paris, global readers); with this beat (and it’s literally nothing but beats), you can’t help but get a little pep in your step, no matter your mood (or bruises from all the pushing). You can even continue this pep at their concert on February 16 in
* The Books — An Animated Description of Mr. Maps — What could possibly be better than an American college student and a middle-aged Dutch man coming together to make experimental music? As odd as it sounds, The Books are most definitely in my top-five list. These guys have a way of juxtaposing (cutting and pasting) their music with audio clips and ideas from the likes of Ghandi, Chomsky, and others. These guys are the kings of wordplay, and An Animated Description of Mr. Maps is an intriguing smorgasbord of sound clips that are extremely relatable for those of us Americans that who actually venture abroad, ending with this statement: “I want all of the American people to understand that it’s understandable that the American people cannot possibly understand.”
* I’ll pretty much listen to anything that catches my ear, or heart rather. I’m a sucker for a sad song, and I can’t deny it. Cat Power, no doubt, consumes many of my playlists, but somehow I find the time to squeeze in others. Some other favorites include: Bob Dylan (classic), Boards of Canada, Pinback, Ani DiFranco, Girl Talk (a sweet, sweet mix of pretty much every song you’ve ever heard on the radio), Handsome Boy Modeling School, Mogwai, Red House Painters, The Velvet Underground, Minus the Bear, Wilco, Mirah, The Unicorns, etc. This list goes on and on. My friends keep telling me I need to listen to “happy” music, but I’m one hundred percent sure I could never be happy listening to Fergie. So, it’s a Chan Marshall life for me… searching/desiring purity of expression.
So that’s me… A rollercoaster of emotions that’s sure to leave you contemplating life and slightly dizzy, but believe me, you’ll be happy you took the ride…
And the beat goes on…
Categories for the songs in the Peepshow:
SHU: Still Holds Up; not a new release but a great little ditty, for whatever reason the critic can conjure.
HC: Hot cake; this one is right out of the oven, or less than a year old.
If you like to rock and you miss this, well then you super-suck!
March 16: Kristen Hersh. The former Throwing Muses bassist has amused us with a string of beautifully crafted and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter albums. Somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Will Oldham's long lost female twin separated at birth.
They just keep comin'. This scene has exploded. And for my buzz-cut of the day: keep your ear to the ground for Narrow Terrence shows. They blew me away at La Maroq. last weekend. And yes, they're local!
Monday, February 12, 2007
THOMAS BELHOM & VOLKER ZANDLER (CALEXICO) / TAHITI BOY AND THE PALMTREE FAMILY / HOWE GELB
For those of you jilted by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (sold out), why not rebound to Calexico and Tahiti Boy. It's not Calexico itself, but some time collaborator and Giant Sand member Howe Gelb is on stage, as are Calexicans Thomas Belshom and Volker Zandler. Gelb is a master indie pianist (witness his cover of "Iron Man": I rest my case) and poly-instrumentalist, like the Calexicans. It will be interesting to see what the Calexicans are up to in this rare opportunity to see them without their power octet. As almost always, the show is free for a pound of Fleche.
Friday, February 09, 2007
(this preview from Gogoparis.com)
"This Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a sort of off-beat Ben Folds Five, which is to say he looks at this gloomy world through the prism of a demented humour. He is no stranger to France, having lived here for a year, and has even (somewhat unbelievably) collaborated with Johnny Hallyday. His trademark coyote whine of a voice manages to harmonise itself quite brilliantly, and coupled with folky pop melodies, produces something quite uplifting. Itâ€™s amazing that one man could have that much talent shoehorned into him. CG"
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Feb. 11, La Maroquinerie. Tickets still available here (or at the door if any are left).
The Hold Steady are a somewhat unlikely but delicious mix of influences and talents. They are decidedly rockin', decidedly lyrical/cerebral, and decidedly americana-crossed. Depending on your age and your listening range and tolerance for musical multiculturalism, you will no doubt hear Bruce Springsteen, Guided By Voices, Ted Leo, Cake, AC/DC, Modest Mouse, the Replacements, and Social Distortion swimming about in their whirlpool of sound. For me it's a whirlpool that makes me scream , "Take me down, poets; Take me down!" The vocals are often spoken word to a kind of AC/DCish guitar accompaniment, moving into a Springsteenish keyboard chorus and back again. But then it's not a formula, either. So "often" is not "always." And there's "often" an appreciable pinch of country in there, though it mixes so well that it's probably not noticeable to the indelicate ear (I went on Extreme Makeover for music critic ears, so forgive my pride). If I told you it was a pinch of something else, you'd probably love it and never know the difference. Let's say it's a pinch of "boogie woogie." There, now go like it.
They begin their impressive recent (2006) album Boys and Girls in America thusly: 'There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right/'Boys and Girls in America have such a sad time together....' Sal Paradise was of course the beat (anti-) hero of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. (I also now wonder if that's what Kim Wilde's 80s indie teen anthem was about.)
At other times, you find them ventriloquizing the late great poet John Berryman: "...I surround myself with doctors and deep thinkers/but big heads with soft bodies make for lousy lovers..."
But most of all, this album is true to its title: it is a meditation on (esp. American) teen life, in malls and parking lots, drag racing and struggling with the pressures and structures of a society that are drifting and hardly planned. They burn, they pinch, they result in madness, suicides, prom queens and kings, endearingly iconoclastic "hoodrats," and prep school basketcases. Perhaps it's a bit strong to say, but the themes and tone of "Boys and Girls..." suggests a kind of musical Larry Clarke.
As always, check'em out at Myspace to judge whether my earjob was worth it. See you there?
February, 12 2007 at Kibélé Paris
12 rue de lEchiquier 9º Paris, Paris,
February, 14 2007 at solo à l'Espace Jemmapes (on Canal St. Martin, Quai de Jemmapes)
I told you about Yeti the other day, in my speedo review of the Limonaire show. But I failed to mention that she wails and yawps better than a bansheee and better than Walt Whitman himself (and that's not to be taken lightly since I have personally known banshees and Walt Whitman), and I wish, only wish I could blister my fingers like she does with her dances across the accordion's keyboard. Maybe she'll give me some lessons? She is extremely entertaining, expressive, theatrical, and best of all, sounds good. What if PJ Harvey was a thespian who played accordian? Yeti: it's Dutch, bitch!
See you there, too.
Monday, February 05, 2007
For the week ending Feb. 11, I thought I'd highlight a few likely good choices (since we're a bit late on our calendar for the month, ahem). But first I'll say I had a fantastic time at Le Limonaire (never had a bad time there, come to think of it) Friday night, seeing the extremely entertaining and loveably named Yeti, Mange-moi, as well as Arlt (formerly Sing-Sing and Eloise).
Yeti and Mange-moi were as much theater as music. Extremely energetic and funny as hell (Yeti has a rubber fish attached to her accordion...just like mine), Yeti and Mange-moi were hard acts to follow for my decidedly more sober old standby Arlt. But they don't disappoint, either. I would recommend all of these artists if you see them on the Limonaire bill, or any other. Mange-moi's lead singer charmed me with her chicken dance and trombone virtuosity. They also have a song about spanking and underwear in which they charmingly, gimmickily string a clothes line festooned with some impressive undergarments--I got quite an education--all across the petite salle. I'll spare you the joke about finally getting to see some French underwear...
Monday, tonight, at Fleche D'Or: SOPHIALO REN (Fr/Us).
Even if you don't read French, you can make out the hybrid sound described in this snippet I've pasted from the Fleche site: hip hop, electronic, broken beat and punk rock. Sanguine, I'm tres sanguine.
"Issu du collectif franco-américain Spontane, révélés dans l’underground New-Yorkais, ces musiciens combinent hip hop, musiques électroniques, broken beats et punk rock dans une ambiance psychédélique et novatrice. Le groupe a déjà partagé l’affiche avec Antibalas (Ninja Tune), Roots Manuva (Big Dada) et Dr Israël." There's also a French band in residence this month at Fleche, Tahiti Boy. Their photo boasts a miniature pink piano, which I assume is actually played on stage. I'm a sucker for a pink piano.
Tuesday at Fleche: An American band affectionately called "Flop." Sounds like a nostalgia band for early 90s Seattle--Mudhoney, Nirvana, etc. But their description got me interested--not sure whether that means I'm superficial, they are or both. They claim to have stolen their "friends'" instruments and started their band. How punk is that? Here's their myspace: http://www.myspace.com/floptheband :
A wonderfully named French band, Lapin Machin, ends the night; they're described as "punk-folk." Sounds promising.
Wednesday at the Fleche D'or: CHARLES CAMPBELL-JONES (London)
On September 24th 2006, Australian keyboardist, songwriter and vanguard Charles Campbell-Jones delivers his debut album Wasting The Duke on Bronzerat records, an unorthodox yet classic journey rooted in blues, glam, krautrock and West Coast harmonies, and bolstered by masterful songwriting. It was recorded over 12 months in various London studios and mixed by Ben Thackeray (Bloc Party, Roots Manuva, Winnebago Deal, etc). Previously likened to Kate Bush, Roxy Music, Lift To Experience and Nut Gone Flake era Small Faces (the psychedelic tracks, not the cockernee ones), CCJ's music combines serious artistic ambitions, beauty and no-nonsense rock and roll. http://www.myspace.com/charlescampbelljones
AT the Maroquinerie (the Maroq) Monday night, tonight, a young Parisian talent showcase. From chanson Afro-folk to electronica. Must be something interesting there.
Tuesday at the Maroq: Son of Dave, polyinstrumentalist formerly of the Crash Test Dummies. Son of a Dave appears with Fink, British electro scene fave.
Wednesday features the sehr noisiche Kiwis, the Datsuns. Check the Maroq calendar if you read French. Some interesting stuff there this week (as is often the case), but it may be worth going to myspace to listen first.
Recently I mentioned the Studio de l'Hermitage as a charming new venue I discovered. Seeing Little Red Lauter at the Bicyclette Saturday reminded me to mention that venue too. One could also add Cafe de Paris. And "one" will add them to our fast-growing index of indie bars/venues in our right-hand sidebar (yes, as opposed to our left-hand sidebar, smartasses).
Have a great week in surprisingly indie-enough Paris.