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Alt Rock

Time: 
20:00
Band name: 
The Dracu-Las
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://facebook.com/thedraculasnj
Venue name: 
Pet Shop
Band email: 
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The Black Black/Kissed By An Animal release split single about how "Songs About New York" are bringing them down

From the golden age of Tin Pan Alley about a century ago to the golden showers age of Meet Me in the Bathroom-era indie sleaze and beyond, songwriters do seem to love writing songs about New York City or at least many of them do and while one could easily make a case for there being more memorable and outright iconic songs about NYC than pretty much anywhere else in the world it’s equally true tho’ not as widely noted that there’s lots and lots of crappy songs about NYC too…

…one example being Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Island Girl,” a song largely forgotten today despite topping the charts back in 1975 and for good reason too seeing as it’s a cringe-worthy condescending ode to a six-foot-three “Jamaican honey so sweet / down where Lexington cross 47th Street […] turning tricks for the dudes in the big city” with lyrics that reinforce at least one hoary racist or whorey trope for every bump of coke Elton and Bernie must’ve done when they were writing the thing (allegedly!) not to mention some faux West Indian articulations and a bizarre kazoo/keyboard/marimba solo section I sh*t you not…

…and then jumping ahead 40 years you got Taylor Swift and Ryan Tedder’s “Welcome to New York City,” a song lambasted for being “the worst ode to NYC ever” and for being a “gentrification anthem...[written] for its transient oligarch class” with T-Swizz pimping her new hometown via a string of tourism brochure platitudes and bland “poptimist“ electro-pop uplift although at least it includes a couple pro-LGBTQ+ lines fit for mass consumption that even if perfunctory (or not!) who cares in the end cuz who can know what mysteries lie deep within Miss Tay Tay’s heart…

…and when it comes to songs about NYC it’s a matter not only of quality but also of quantity cuz there’s soooo many songs about NYC already in existence which has gotta make it pretty tough to come up with a non-hackneyed angle on the city and really how many ways are there to say “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” or to praise “streets [that] make you feel brand new [with] big lights to inspire you”…

…and even if you're looking to write more of an outlier song with NYC-related lyrical content it’s a safe bet almost every random piece of NYC marginalia you can imagine has been addressed at least once or twice before in song like how back in the ‘70s there were not just one but two songs by major artists named for the notorious “Coney Island Whitefish” which I would not recommend ordering from your local fish market even if you are running low on tartar sauce…

…which is all a moot point to the likes of Hiro, Dima, Johnny and John seeing as the musical foursome “fucking hate songs about New York”—and isn’t this the most “New York” take one could take on songs about New York possible—as explored further on “Songs About New York” which is the title track twice iterated appearing on both sides of the split seven-inch recently released by The Black Black and Kissed By An Animal (EWEL Records) two bands with an overlapping keep-it-in-the-family membership while remaining almost entirely non-incentuous in sonic terms seeing as how “KBAA move through tight, clean punk into melodic power pop, while TBB bring their unique brand of bass-driven post punk groove” according to the EWEL’s official press release

…and it’s a clever conceit to be sure having both bands record their own versions of the title song (alongside one bonus cut each) because not only do they cleverly bypass the whole “another stupid song about New York” quandary with a song about stupid songs about New York sharing a set of lyrics and a main vocal hook between them but otherwise we’re talking two totally different bags of apples...

…a conceit that (arguably) acts as a critique of the Big Apple’s oft-vainglorious sense of self-regard because as usual the mirror has two faces—the one shown to the outside world and the one more hidden away which is not to imply those two sides are always clearly distinguishable—and whether we’re talking about a split-single or a split-personality the two sides reflect and refract one another while standing along in their own right too like a double-helix strand of DNA where neither side is considered the “A Side” or the “B Side” it’s far more dialectical than that…

…or to put it more in layman’s terms the new KBAA/TBB split-single totally rips while simultaneously ripping a new one for all those clichéd songs about New York and ripping at the very fabric of ontological/representational self-certainty ideal for fans of bands like The Hives, The Vines, The Seeds, Oh Sees, Parquet Courts, Television, Radiohead, TV On The Radio, TVOD, Cinemax After Dark, Red Shoe Diaries, Midnight Blue, New Wave Theater, The Corey Hotline and Freddie Freaker and the single comes in numerous hues and shades such as periwinkle putrid pink, grape Shasta, and ‘70s shag avocado but the color is chosen at random so order at least 10 copies (out of a limited run of 200!) to increase your chances of getting a cool one… (Jason Lee)

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Songwriters

Time: 
20:30
Band name: 
Jessica CarterAltman
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/jessicacarteraltman/
Venue name: 
Rockwood Music Hall
Band email: 
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Pleasure Island keeps it real faux on Argentine recorded EP

If Elvis Costello’s Attractions or The Clash were primarily into world music, perhaps they would sound something like Pleasure Island—an unorthodox and quirky band that combines touches of new wave-ish rock with a variety of Latin styles. These guys are hardly purists, and therein lies the thing that makes Faux Porteño so much fun. Showing an adventurous spirit, Pleasure Island are consistently unpredictable and draw on everything from Afro-Cuban salsa to Mexican ranchero/polka to Brazilian choro. On the tango “Imagination”, P.I. rejects the suit-and-tie sophistication that characterizes much Argentinean music in favor of a tougher, harder-edged approach. And on “Intentaré" they successfully take a Tex-Mex approach to traditional Italian songs…

…all of which is complete bullshit of course, but not entirely necessarily, and either way you should know that I copied the paragraph above nearly verbatim from an allmusic.com review of Brave New Combo’s classic 1990 LP A Night On Earth (classic in my mind at least!) and especially songs like "Hey There" and "Do Something Different", a band that Paste magazine once called “the Grand Pooh-Bah of Denton bands…in many ways the template from which all the rest are cut: eclectic and artistically ambitious, with a high degree of musicianship and a strong DIY aesthetic” which is a statement I can vouch for having seen Brave Combo multiple times back in the day and having been raised in North Texas not too far from Denton which is home to the University of North Texas which is known for its prestigious jazz-leaning music program but I digress…

…and so hearing the new EP by the musically adroit veterans of Pleasure Island (*emerging* veterans!) who self-describe as “surf-deprecating loungecore from Ridgewood, Queens” made me harken back to those perennial purveyors of worldbeat rhythms for the denizens of Denton and beyond (if only Pleasure Island had a polka number or two up their sleeves they could maybe win a Grammy!) equally amenable to lounge lizards and ethnomusicologists alike and when I looked up the above-quoted review it was like wow this fits Faux Porteño like a glove except for a couple missing fingers like the bits about “Brazilian choro” and “Tex-Mex approach[es] to traditional Italian songs”…



…except as it turns out there *is* an Italian connection as we’ll soon see and even more so an Argentinean connection seeing as how Faux Porteño was recorded in Buenos Aires last spring and sounds like it too with the code switching of the record’s title (in French and Spanish, and it rhymes!) that’s apropos to the record’s code switching across multiple dimensions (musical, ontological, etc.) not to mention the revealing titular contrast between faux (fake) and porteño which is a word used to describe the realest-of-the-real authentic denizens of Buenos Aires a.k.a. “the Paris of South America” and here again I’ll quote at length and really it’s too bad I don’t get paid by the word count…

…a term that according to therealargentina.com is “used to refer to the citizens of Buenos Aires where porteño literally means “person of the port”, and harks back to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Spanish and Italian immigrants in the first half of the 20th century. So while the porteños might share the same country as their compadres from, say, Salta or Rio Gallegos, they look and act more like Italians. Buenos Aires is proud of its identity, so you’ll see and hear the word “porteño” (or ‘porteña’ in the feminine) all around, to describe restaurants, taxi firms, football teams and tango. But porteño is more than just a geographical indicator, it’s a way of being. Porteños have their own slang (‘Lunfardo’), their own fashion, their own complex psyche and their own attitude” revolving according to this website around big shoes and big hair, potent beverages, football (the kind that’s actually played with one’s feet) and machismo so there’s a North Texas connection here too in a sense…

…and right from the EP’s opening track entitled “Imagination” the porteño vibes comes across thick and strong as a really strong, thick cup of yerba mate opening with a rhapsodic solo accordion intro that segues into a laid-back tango groove but honestly I’d have to consult a musicologist to know if the underlying rhythm of the tango is more marcato or síncopa or tres-tres-y-dos which not too many gringos such as myself could even differentiate anyway even though real porteños may set their clocks to tango’s rhythms…

…but it’s not so concerning for our purposes here cuz the record is called *Faux* Porteño after all meaning that a little bit of inauthenticity and/or pure imagination is fully expected and to quote from the lyrics of “Imagination” at some length: “I like colorful clothes / the redder the rose / and the wonderful city lights / but I’d much rather kiss you, my lady / in black and white // with my foot on the gas / the things we pass / the breeze in your hair you’d feel / but I’d much rather run with you, my lady / in slow motion through a field // I’m in love again / I’m in love again / at least in my imagination” all building to a stated preference for Hollywood fantasies over the more mundane fulfillment of real friends…

…all of which reminds me of when Courtney Love first informed the public that “I fake it so real I am beyond fake” which was a startling statement at the time but today the better part of the body politic lives by these very words cuz really who even knows what the hell’s real anymore and what’s fake and speaking of fake did you know that none of The Beach Boys even surfed except for Dennis and he ended up drowning for his troubles but still they’re among the most iconic of surf bands to ever exist and also among the realest purveyors of the collective California imaginary that’s like essentially the skeleton key to the entire bigger American Dream and it’s in this spirit of “true lies” that Pleasure Island addresses their listeners on the EP’s subsequent track “Kokomo 2” which is most definitely the most impressive musical homage to Mike Love to be composed this side of The Fall’s “Mike’s Love Xexagon” from back in 2003 and one of my favorite Fall songs to boot but I digress…

…and returning to “Kokomo 2” here’s a song that pays homage to The Beach Boys’ left-field late-career #1 hit song “Kokomo 1” released back in 1988 which itself paid homage to The Beach Boys’ glory days but which in reality had little to do with the real Beach Boys apart from Mike Love’s co-writing credit and tepid vocalizing (Carl’s vocals are totally majestic as always even when in service to trite material such as this and even without his brother Brian present) plus “Kokomo” isn’t even a real place but rather an imaginary “tropical paradise” invented just for the song and despite going to the top of the Billboard charts it also routinely charts on critics’ “worst songs of all time” lists and so it’s undeniably perverse for a band like Pleasure Island to write their own sequel to what is likely The Beach Boys’ most widely despised song…

…but here at The Deli we’re totes on board with “undeniably perverse“ and we’re also on board with novelty songs that take a nearly-35-year-old novelty song taken from a nostalgia-infused soundtrack to a movie that features Tom Cruise at his most Tom Cruisiest with lyrics about a locale that’s nothing more than a mirage in reality but which in the hands of Pleasure Island is transformed from the realm of idealized “pure imagination” subtext into a less-than-idealized supertext that at once actualizes and then deconstructs the mirage in question…

…starting with the song’s admission that “I hate chores / so I got divorced / I wanted more / than Zsa Zsa Gabor / my future’s waiting for me / at the shore” where the narrator is intent on “havin’ a Kokomo party” even if it’s somewhere in the vicinity of the Jersey Shore in reality that is until the song’s end where the facade briefly slips in hopes that “whatever happened before / we’ll like each other again” but it’s a difficult to swallow last ditch bit of sentimentalism given the song’s smarmy lounge lizard tone up to that point and the synthetic sounding but still butt-shaking ‘80s-esque tropical grooves that link the song directly to it’s predecessor…

…which get at just what I dig about this little record and that’s how it works on multiple levels at once but without being showy about it like how it’s simultaneously lo-fi and DIY-sounding but sonically ambitious at the same time with songs about the stark reality of having to fake it 'til you make it (or, worse yet, don’t make it) with a lyrical POV that’s equal parts entitled and ineffectual, carefree and neurotic, and a musical POV that’s equal parts laid-back and uptight and while one could write a passable thesis on these and other dialectical oppositions in the works of Pleasure Island it’s also true that when I first heard these songs performed live at a mellow tree-shrouded backyard bar during a pleasant late summer evening all I remember thinking is how these gently humorous, gently propulsive tunes were the perfect straight-forward antidote to the worries and stressors of the day. (Jason Lee)

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On "Belly Empty" Honeyyycrush owns her own hunger and perhaps provokes your own

From the looks of it Honeyyycrush either owns a keyboard with a sticky ‘Y’ key or maybe she’s just a big fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tho I’d guess more “Maps” than “Y Control” (ironic!) but who knows (we don’t!) and come to think of it Honeyyycrush’s new single “Belly Empty” wouldn’t sound too out of place on the new YYY's album Cool It Down...



…and as evidence allow me to quote from Pitchfork’s review of that very album’s lead-off single “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” where Ryan Dombal writes that SOtEotW is “set off by the kind of horizon-expanding synths you’d expect to find on an opus by M83 or Vangelis. Karen’s delivery is painfully vulnerable one moment and strident the next, pinging between existential hopelessness and mighty resistance”…


 
…a quote that pretty well sums up “Belly Empty” as well even if it’s more of a slow-burn type of number (closer to “Lovebomb” in fact!) and the “horizon-expanding keyboards” in question are also guitars and just in case the YYY’s aren’t your thing I’d say you could also fruitfully compare Honeyyyycrush’s repertoire so far to Mazzy Star or Marissa Nadler or Chelsea Wolf and I’m hoping quoting almost two full sentences from a Pitchfork review isn’t considered plagiarism even when attributed…



…and what the hell I may as well double down and steal directly from Honeyyyyyycrush herself who posts blogger-friendly word clouds for her songs on TikTok like “Belly Empty” for instance geta broken down as “glittering grungy….big drum…slinky bass line…haunting…alt-indie rock" and in another post as a song for all those who enjoy “drowning in reverb…gritty guitars…airy vocals…warm Jazzmaster tones…uniques voices…’90s alt rock/indie folk” (see the ripped video above!) which perfectly summarizes the overall musical vibe so thanks for that (!) and then over on the offical IG acccount there’s the following summary of “Belly Empty” more from a lyrical standpoint…

.…a song about embracing your flaws without shame and maybe reveling in them. It’s about being down in the muck of yourself and not taking the moral high ground. It’s not an anthem about evolving or improving. When you’re down in the shit, you don’t want to come out. Sometimes you’re down in the shit and it’s all your fault, but it feels good to own it, it feels empowering

…which is great cuz now I don't feel quite as bad for cribbing from other sources so let’s hear it for anti-aspirational-better-to-own-your-own-shiz-and-accept-it (and maybe other people's shiz too!) alt-rock power ballads steeped in ghostly reverb and moral ambiguity because there’s more than enough aspirational pop songs out there already as if you have any control over your life getting better but there’s never nearly enough moodyyy, broodyyy chanteuses crooning grooovy, grungyyy, gothyyy dream-pop inflected ditties embracing “the ugliness in me / disconnecting limbs / and lovers that don’t serve me” and not apologizing for it…

…and granted I was a bit puzzled at first by the refrain of “you don’t know me like I do” because, well, it seems pretty self-evident doesn’t it, but then again it’s all about how those words are put across like for instance if you just read the words “they don’t you like I love you” on the page you'd think "hmmm, interesting" but as presented in the context of “Maps” it’s an emotionally devastating statement which is something Honeyyyyycrush obviously takes to heart which isn't too surprising seeing as she’s a published poet too writing under the the pen name "Alexandra Antonopoulos" which no doubt means she gets the complexities at play more than we do…

…plus the line in question really got me thinking about how contemporary society routinely tells us (or at least strongly implies!) that no you don’t know yourself like I do just consider for instance how algorithms seek to foresee and satisfy our every impulse and inchoate desire before we’re even aware they exist (if they existed at all before! implanted memories!) or how social media in particular has made it easier for outside forces to reorient our very preconceptions of reality and identity by supercharging time-tested methods of emotional manipulation against us…

…which isn’t to say, social media or no social media, that there aren’t creeps out there waiting to try and gaslight you no matter what (especially women, natch, who too often fall victim to "mansplaining" music bloggers ummmm...) so “you don’t know me like I do” is actually more nuanced that I realized at first it just takes a voice like Alexandra's to drive home all the implications and speaking of emotional manipulation it’s not always entirely a bad thing like with the part of "Belly Empty" starting around 2:11 known as “the bridge section” for all you budding Max Martin''s out there….

…which is where all the submerged tension from the preceding two-plus minutes rises to the surface in a swirling torrent of dizzy delicious dreaming slack-jawed release of pent-up energies and desires (“I take what I want and I take what I want and I take what I want and…”) and for 20-something seconds that feels like a mini-eternity it's like the song is rubbing your nose in icing sugar (thanks to Robert Smith for the vivid imagery I’ve stolen here because that’s my running theme!) before subsiding back into the sonic ether which is frankly and blatantly manipulative in making you want to listen to “Belly Empty” over and over again to get another hit of that bridge section dopamine to which Honeyyyyyyyycrush would maybe reply “why oh why control yourself at all just go ahead and listen obsessively again and again and again and help me build up my streaming numbers” and that’s a win-win for all involved… (Jason Lee)

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