With a brashness usually reserved for rap music and the wide-screen bombast of the title sequence of a Bond flick, Brooklyn's Lolo rips the doors off the industry with debut single, "Weapon For Saturday". Channeling dense visual metaphor - other than the title lyric she suggests she is, " the baddest car in parking lot", "the house that fell on the bitter witch", "the corporate guy with the biggest tip", "the fastest horse in the Derby race", and this doesn't even address Lolo's most reaching comparative lyric, "I'm only the face of every woman" - the singer manages to tangle with a restless becoming, the attempt to be everything menacing at once. It works. A bit campy, to be sure, the surging strings and the 3am Adele impression, but "Weapon For Saturday" is that rare piece of major label pop you hear before it becomes major label pop. If this proves to be the path for Lolo, this will be the sound of the takeover before the takeover.
Chris Laufman, the keyboard mastermind behind the bedroom jams of Wise Blood, settles the listener into an immediate claustrophobia on "Alarm". The first lyrics, "I can't think/Someone's sitting right in front of me/I need some personal space," become the hook, a modern dystopia full of crossed fingers, local news reports about arson, tense and dissonant woodwinds in the bridge. For an artist that digs obfuscation (see every promotional photo ever) as much as illumination, it makes sense that a song that sounds this breezy would cover such terribly anxious ground. "Alarm" has the potential to unsettle at a gut level, though a saxophone loop and Laufman's laconic vocal indicate that all isn't lost, even if the walls, ceiling and floor appear to be closing in.
All unfiltered bombast on "Dream Machines", Big Deal drape themselves in a blighted, shouting fatalism. "Dream Machines", slamming with double-tap drums and a boy-girl duet sounds like Joy Formidable (and it's worth noting that Big Deal are the heirs to this throne) covering a Stars joint, dream-pop holding a long kiss goodnight with shoegaze. One of the biggest songs of the year, it's a world of moral victories and letdowns, as singer Alice Costelloe leads from above with lines like, "Nothing here is built to last / what you wanted and what you chose / you can't have both." Instead of a shrugging conclusion, there lies triumph in the big, crunchy chord progression and Costelloe's duet with partner Kacey Underwood. Finding both union and beauty in the noise, singing to one another, "What's mine is yours is yours is mine," before concluding, "We'll grow our hair / cut our ties." As the arrangement surges around them, we presume these two are planning to leave everything but each other.
Built on a simple guitar progression and a reliable snare drum, Island Boy launches "Heart Attack" into an echoing stratosphere of pop. It adds complexity, a chorus that explodes out of the speakers like the best parts of the Small Black catalog, all whipping synthesizer drums and vocals drowning in layer upon layer of reverb. The final movement grows no bigger than the original conceit, it merely reaffirms the idea: a long slow jam for someone with far too much to think about. Like the cover art, it is a flight over water, pensive and relentlessly existential.
With an ode to the synth and bass pick-ups of the Killers' "Human", Waylayers produce a similar progression with remarkably more muted results. "The Hook" is all pent up aggression, lyrics about resignation not transmutation, a shrugging and pretty, "give into the fault lines", as good a visual metaphor about geology as you'll get in 2013. While the arrangement, soaked in ethereal synthesizer and guitar, never fully takes off, never delivers the moment of explosion that the listener might suitably be expecting from all this build up, "The Hook" proves interested in something a bit more midtempo. The last line of the chorus reflects this quiet escapism, "I'd rather live my life inside my dreams." There will be no slamming conclusion, no miracles here, just the rigid and relentless plate tectonics grinding slowly beneath our feet.
We are proud to hold the world premiere of the latest double-sided single from Amity Beach, a band with a name that evokes one of the most famous tropes of summer - a marauding, homicidal shark set against the pragmatic and alarmist town sheriff. These are, after all, the two narrative thrusts of the season: societal moralisms in direct conflict with unrestrained id, anarchy at war with the social contract, a shark come to terrorize your town. Amity Beach manages to find a sweet medium here, structured pop constructions with nothing but brilliant carbonated chaos in the middle. On A-Side, "Sunday Nights to Infinity", Amity Beach finds itself at the intersection of slamming guitars and ebullient keys, a late-night anthem about backs pushed like bulwarks against mounting responsibilities. It is one part Surfer Blood, one part Fang Island - especially in the guitars in stomping second movement - like Los Campesinos, an attempt to sound like everything is happening all of the time. "Avalanches", the B-side, recalls Beulah, a horn-drenched summer jam engaged in perpetual lift-off. The band does nothing to declare a winner between these twin impulses to build and destroy, but instead of blindly rooting for the town, Amity Beach admits with two of the best songs of the summer that - just a little bit - we might be pulling for the shark too.
This review runs live and first on Bowery Presents' House List blog with great photos from Brian Reilly.
Last fall, New York magazine wondered if Brooklyn was finished. The cover story featured Barclays Center, a veritable spaceship of urban development that landed at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. But the arena as a new Brooklyn icon wasn’t truly finished until the National, a band whose Midwestern-displacement story mirrors many of the borough’s residents, took to its stage last night. As their fans—a bearded and craft-brew-swilling demographic hybrid of DIY and yuppie—clapped along, the band, avatars of Kings County’s mixture of aspiration and crooked shame, opened with “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” the sound of everything Brooklyn could and couldn’t be.
The early part of the set saw the National run through material from their latest, Trouble Will Find Me, mixed with songs from their previous two records, High Violet and Boxer. Playing “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Mistaken for Strangers” and “Sea of Love” (before which they facetiously said, “We’ve played 35 venues in this city, and it’s great to be back here where it all started”), the National proved to be in sharp and slicing form, tumbling tom-tom drums colliding with Matt Berninger’s graveled baritone. The quintet then performed “Sorrow,” which they “knew better than any other” song, after playing it for six straight hours straight as performance art at MoMA PS1 just a few weeks ago. Somewhere someone bit into an artisanal sausage and washed it down with an IPA just as the song about being absolutely miserable forever rang through the rafters. It was Brooklyn, old and new, misery and joy, on display in the same moment for the band, clad in black and backed by a string and horn section.
Following a run of “Squalor Victoria” and “I Need My Girl,” the National ripped through “Graceless,” the down-tempo “Pink Rabbits” and “England.” The crowd waited for one of the five-piece’s signature tunes and perhaps the night’s defining moment, “Fake Empire,” a song ostensibly about the terrible mistakes of the second Bush administration but could just as easily have been applied to the coterminous power and hypocrisy of Brooklyn’s rise to cultural prominence. The band and their fans sang the title lyric with real vigor, staying out sort of late on a weeknight in the moment when Brooklyn found nothing left to do or prove.