• Distopian Dream World: Drag City's "It's A Wonderful Next Life" Christmas Party, featuring Weird War, (Smog), and Joanna N

    Blame the omnipresent iPod for ruining our music-listening attention spans forever. Judging by the rotating format of the Drag City Christmas Party (subtitled "It's a Wonderful Next Life"), it seemed the organizers didn't have much faith in the audiences' listening longevity. They didn't have much faith in the Bowery Ballroom's heating system either--knit sweaters and scarves/hats were a somewhat odd entrance requirement to a Wonderful Next Life. Weird War, the first of three acts on the bill, played three songs of glammed out, rant-y punk. (Smog) followed with three post-modern funereal dirges. Joanna Newsom rounded it out with her ethereal, woodland-nymph style harp. Then Weird War started the cycle again. Then (Smog) again, followed by Newsom. Then they did it all again.

  • Spin's 40 Best Albums of the Year

    A zany woodsprite to Björk's possessed tree goddess. With her pint-size voice and full-size harp, Newsom baffled and charmed indie-folk fans this year, mainly because you'd expect someone who sings about love and loss as sweetly and surreally as she does to sound older than 12. Mendermight be off-putting on first listen, but it's totally addictive thereafter. And yes, she's a distant cousin of gay-marriage-performing San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, a detail which somehow brings her down to earth.JOE GROSS 39 GHOSTFACE The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam) Staten Island's most tempestuous Wu-banger argues with his own racing brain, demands some banana Nutrament, knocks boots with Missy in a '75 Cordoba, elbows his way into the Delfonics, and hyperventilates through one of the best cop-fleeing desperation scenarios in hip-hop history, all overnicotine-stained, Vietnam-era soul.

  • Identity Crisis: Moving Units and the Bravery

    By: Peter Gaston No self-respecting rock band ever sets out to be the next Stone Temple Pilots or the next Bush, or hopes that they'll be dismissed as rip-off artists. But at the same time, most bands would certainly envy the wild success enjoyed by both STP and Bush, success that definitely exceeded some of the acts they were initially ripping off. It often comes down to timing, not talent, and poor timing is something that both the Moving Units and the Bravery have their fair share of these days. During their double bill at New York's Bowery Ballroom last week, neither band did much to assert their individual identities. The Bravery's doppelganger for the foreseeable future will undoubtedly be O.C. darlings the Killers.

  • The (Not So) New Face of Punk

    By: Steve Lowenthal If one were to look at the current cultural landscape, it would seem the very idea of punk has been not only wholeheartedly diluted, but transformed quite literally into teen pop. All these nice happy Neutrogena kids in punk drag are enough to make a die-hard punk go (gasp!) new wave. Thankfully, the vanguard of '90s underground hardcore punk has re-emerged in a variety of configurations to record today's youth riot anthems. This music is not about revivalism; this is the logical progression of the form itself, and something that suggests that if you can't destroy a room in thirty-three seconds, why be in a band, anyway?

  • Vice Tour 2004: Death From Above 1979, Panthers, Vietnam

    VietnamThe PanthersDeath From Above 1979@ Rothko, December 4, NYC Hipsters are easy. Get enough of them together and feed them enough shitty beer, and you can convince them of pretty much anything. A year ago they were wearing trucker hats, for fuck's sake. But hipsters are also fickle. Once they catch a whiff of a fashion, band or bar becoming remotely mainstream, they are drawn to the next "shiny" object. Peddling culture to these ambassadors of New York City cool is a dicey proposition, but Vice is trying its hand at becoming the go-to destination for the Next Cool Thing. But Vice Records seems to have hit upon two things that make it work. One: As long as the band has a "look" (translation: one of its male members looks like a girl) and there is at least one song that will make the girls dance, the hipsters will come.

  • Lonesome Crowded West: The Occasion's Self Titled Debut

    The Occasion The Occasion Say Hey Records The cover of the Occasion's self-titled debut album shows the buttes and sagebrush of a barren desert scape.The small mounds of lonely dirt languishing under a searing blue sky are appropriate for the music that lies within this spare and rather morose CD. It's the kind of music I'd play for a cowboy's funeral. The Occasion contains elements of country, psychedelia, and ambient all mixed into a series of dirges and narratives.Often independent music cannot be sad without being whiny or flippant because indie rockers are terrified of being earnest.

  • The Occasion, 'The Occasion' (Say Hey)

    The cover of the Occasion's self-titled debut album shows the buttes and sagebrush of a barren desert scape. The small mounds of lonely dirt languishing under a searing blue sky are appropriate for the music that lies within this spare and rather morose CD. It's the kind of music I'd play for a cowboy's funeral. The Occasion contains elements of country, psychedelia, and ambient all mixed into a series of dirges and narratives. Often independent music cannot be sad without being whiny or flippant because indie rockers are terrified of being earnest. As a result, they embrace irony to the detriment of real meaning.

  • U2 in Brooklyn: Under the Bridge

    U2Empire-Fulton Ferry State ParkBrooklyn November 22 A few years ago, Bono famously told anyone who would listen (on several occasions, we might add) that U2 was re-applying for the job of greatest rock band in the world. And even though there weren't really loads of other bands actively pursuing that position at the time, U2 diligently crafted an ambitious global jaunt that brought their fans back to the forefront, both physically--they packed the luckiest fans into a heart-shaped area within the stage (Aww! U2 loves you!)--and emotionally by cracking open parts of its back catalog that hadn't been accessed in more than a decade.

  • Peel Slowly and See: Five Essential Sessions Recordings

    The Damned, Sessions of the Damned (Strange Fruit, 1993) If you ever heard "New Rose" and wondered how these losers got credit for making the first punk record, check out the 1976 version-and keep a bucket handy to catch your face. Joy Division, The Complete BBC Recordings (Strange Fruit, 2000) Rawer than the band's finished albums, these three 1979 sessions demonstrate just how exciting (and off-key) singer Ian Curtis could be. PJ Harvey, Too Pure-Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit, 1992) Polly Harvey was signed moments after her recording of "Sheela-Na-Gig" blew up transmitter towers from Penzance to John O'Groats. Autechre, Peel Session 1/Peel Session 2 (Warp, 1999/2001) Peel invented the song titles for the minimalist electronic duo's sessions-who can forget the first time they heard "Gaekwad"?

  • The Futureheads Kick Out the Jam at NYC's Canal Room

    The FutureheadsCanal Room, NYCNovember 3rd "This has to be the cleanest place we've ever played," said the Futureheads' frontman Barry Hyde after playing a few songs at New York's posh Canal Room. The world of $10 cocktails and bathroom attendants must be a bit unfamiliar to a band from Sunderland, a coastal town in England's North East, whose first tour involved a 14-day, 14-show jaunt through dilapidated European squats. In fact, the scene was just as unfamiliar to those who frequent rock shows in regular New York spots, which are usually far dingier and offer much better values at the bar.

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