Music Review

The Art Song, Part 1: Lieder

A major glossy magazine that used to be devoted largely to music -- but long ago fell under the spell of Hollywood celebrity -- still continues to cover music, specializing in listicles that seem designed mainly to provoke ire in those who care more about music than does said magazine (named after a classic blues song, in case you can't guess without a hint). This summer it unleashed a list of songs that, with that aging publication's ironically weak sense of history, managed to overlook the vast majority of the history of song. To put it bluntly, if you're claiming to discuss the best songs ever written and you don't even mention Franz Schubert, you're an ignoramus. My ire over this blinkered attitude towards music history festered for months, so I finally decided to do something about it by writing about some of the timeless songs omitted in the aforementioned myopic listicle. There are so many great songs in the history of classical music that no one article could contain it, so first I focus on one particularly rich tradition, the German lieder. I plan to write a sequel covering classical songs from other traditions, though I admit that my track record of completing these big projects has been a bit spotty! Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra finished recording their Schumann cycle 55 years ago

Hungarian-born conductor George Szell (1897-1970) never intended to settle in the United States, but when World War II started in 1939, that's where he was, and he stayed. After well-received guest appearances with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Philharmonic, in 1946 he became a U.S. citizen and became the Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra, which he proceeded to raise it from mid-level regional status to one of the Big Five U.S. orchestras. Read more »

Song of the Week: Benji Hughes - "Freaky Feedback Blues"

This delicious piece of ear candy is the perfect freaky weekend sing-along. Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes' Songs in the Key of Animals drops on January 29, 2016 on Merge Records. Into vinyl? Pick up the "Freaky Feedback Blues" 7-inch out now.

Metadata Panic in the Age of Surveillance: Killing Joke Unleashes Pylon

After about 32 years of being a slavishly devout fan of Killing Joke, the job of reviewing their new studio album with any semblance of balanced objectivity is a tougher task than you might imagine. Those who have embraced the music, mythos and accompanying sensibility of Killing Joke tend to do so with a bug-eyed fervor that borders liberally on myopic zealotry. In short order, no other band matters nearly as much. Read more »

Dusty Wright - "High Flyin' Bird"

Stoked to share the new single "High Flyin' Bird" featuring Queen Esther on co-vocals, Matt Goeke on plucked cello, and Jerry Krenach on drums. Produced by Dusty Wright and mixed by Mr. David Lee. Recorded at Strauss Park Studios, NYC. Cover art by the very talented French painter Claire Petit. This long-forgotten '60s folk classic has been covered by Judy Henske, Neil Young, Richie Havens, and Jefferson Airplane. Please click here to buy it today!

Song of the Week: Israel Nash - "Strangers"

The spirit of Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, and early solo David Crosby circa If Only I Could Remember My Name, thrive in this former Brooklyn-based "metaphysical" cowboy Israel Nash Giripka's musical universe. Having stumbled upon him quite by accident I was immediately drawn to his tone, stringed textures (Gretsch guitars, pedal steel), and musical chops. The most excellent single entitled "Strangers" is the debut track from his sixth album Israel Nash's Silver Season, available worldwide October 9th via Loose Music & Thirty Tigers.

Video of the Week: Stolar - "My Own Way"

Stolar, the artist formerly knows as Jay Stolar, has released another pwoerful pop song with an equally powerful video. "My Own Way" was created in support of the Jed Foundation's groundbreaking mental health awareness movement Love Is Louder. For more info visit their website at www.loveislouder.com. A portion of the proceeds from #MyOwnWay will help support the Love Is Louder movement. Be inspired and watch it now!

Song of the Week: The Bottle Rockets - "Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)"

Missouri-bred Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets has been waving his roots-rock flag since the '90s and has been delivering catchy-as-hell music all along. Now he's at it again, teasing ears with a brand new tune "Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)" from a forthcoming album entitled South Broadway Athletic Club set for release on Bloodshot Records on Oct. 2nd, 2015. In the interim, share this tasty slice of American rock music with your family and friends at all of your Labor Day celebrations on this Monday holiday.

Video of the Week: FKA twigs - M3LL155X

British singer, songwriter, producer and dancer FKA twigs has released a brand new EP entitled M3LL155X (Young Turks), that features five songs, four of which -- "Figure 8", "I'm Your Doll", "In Time", "Glass & Patron" -- are accompanied by a video directed by FKA twigs herself. The four film pieces form one continuous FKA twigs-directed work, cementing who she is as an artist with an aggressive statement conceptualizing the process of feeling pregnant with pain, birthing creativity and liberation. She breathes a quiet but potent energy into every frame. One of the freshest musicians on the scene today.

ANNIVERSARIES: Mal Waldron Born 90 Years Ago

Malcolm Earl "Mal" Waldron was born on August 16, 1925 in New York City. His father worked for the Long Island Rail Road. Mal started taking classical piano lessons at age seven and, inspired by his love of jazz, also learned alto saxophone. He earned a B.A. in Music from Queens College, with the G.I. Bill (he'd been drafted in 1943 and served for two years, fortunately not seeing combat) paying for his tuition. He worked in jazz, blues, and R&B contexts and made his first recording in 1952 as a member of Ike Quebec's band. In '54-56 he was part of Charles Mingus's Jazz Workshop and recorded with Mingus. Waldron went out on his own as a leader at the end of 1956 with the album Mal/1 on Prestige and quickly became one of the prolific label's house pianists. The following year he added to his workload the position of Billie Holiday's accompanist, which garnered him more attention; he stayed in that position until her death in mid-'59.

There was a break in his career following a 1963 heroin overdose that caused a mental breakdown and left him with the shakes to the extent that he could not play the piano. There was temporary brain damage affecting his speed of thought, so even after he had re-taught himself how to play by listening to his own records, for a while he couldn't improvise. He compensated for this mental deficit, while it lasted, by writing out his solos in advance. Read more »

Song of the Week: David Gilmour - "Rattle That Lock"

One of my favorite guitarists, ever, is releasing his fourth solo album, Rattle That Lock, on September 18th on Columbia Records. Until then we get to groove on a catchy new single that would not have sounded out of place on The Wall album. Has Mr. Gilmour been hanging out with Nile Rodgers? This is not the laid back "muzak" grooves of the On the Island. This is David showcasing his Fender Stratocaster guitar magic. Pre-order it here!

The Watkins Family Hour - Lincoln Center

Saturday night was a perfect summer evening for free Americana music at Lincoln's Center Damrosch Park as part of the Annual Roots of American Music, Americanafest NYC. The evening featured two of the genres rising stars. The headliners played two sets with the first half of the set featuring mostly original tunes by former Nickel Creek members Sean and Sara Watkin's new band The Watkins Family Hour. They and their extraordinary band entertained a robust crowd of New Yorkers and tourists alike. One of my favorite songs of the evening was their beatiful take on the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace." And co-vocalist Fionna Apple's original song "A Mistake" was quite moving. Yes, she's one of the members of this band. Read more »

Song of the Week: Barrence Whitfield - "The Claw"

"The Claw" is a much-needed jolt of raw, unfiltered, throw-back, punked-out garage rock bliss played with the same verve and reckless abandanon as The Sonics once did it. Barrence Whitfield & The Savages keepin' it real in this pre-fab muzak daze. From their new long player Under the Savage Sky on Blood Shot Records. TURN IT UP, UP TIGHT WHITE PEOPLE!!!!

U2 at Madison Square Garden, 30 July 2015

I finally did it: I saw U2 in concert.

I may have waited too long to catch the band in its prime, but its 37 years of experience -- without a personnel change -- and undiluted passion have made it one of the biggest concert draws for decades now, even if recent albums have been uneven in inspiration. Read more »

Video of the Week: Church of Betty - "Endure"

NSFW. So simple that it will hypnotize, but that's always been the case with many of NY-based Chris Rael's Church of Betty tunes. His new single "Endure" (from longplayer Swirled World) channels the raga spirit of George Harrison. The video directed by filmmaker/photograhper Jasmine Hirst has an edgy, East Village experimental quality that perfectly exploits the overall tone and texture. 25 years in and Church of Betty can still thrill.

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