Category Archives: Pop and Rock

Sharon Van Etten has a new EP coming in June

Sharon Van Etten's new EP is titled "I Don't Want to Let You Down."

The cover of Sharon Van Etten’s upcoming  EP, “I Don’t Want to Let You Down.”

Sharon Van Etten‘s been touring her last album, “Are We There,” pretty steadily since its release almost a year ago. But it turns out she found some time along the way to do some recording, too.

The fruits of the Indie superstar’s off-the-road work will be ready for sampling on June 9, when her new EP drops. It’s a five-song collection called “I Don’t Want to Let You Down.”

No chance of that. Maybe you’ve heard the title tune at one of her shows, but if you  tap or click here, you can hear it again.

It’s a straight-ahead, classic Van Etten. And it’s definitely not going to let you down.

Pre-order it on iTunes or from all the usual sources via the links on her website.

 

 

 

 

 

How Facebook helped Porter Carroll Jr. launch his second act in music — with Hall & Oates

Porter Carroll Jr. (Photo by Michael Nelson For The Journal News)

Porter Carroll Jr. (Photo by Michael Nelson For The Journal News)

Drummer Porter Carroll Jr. and some classmates from Woodlands High School in Westchester County, New York, made a big mark in the music business with the band they started in 1970, before they graduated  — an act that evolved into the  R&B group Atlantic Starr.

After a decade and a half with the band behind hits like “Circles” and “Touch a Four-Leaf Clover,” Carroll struck out on his own as a solo artist, but quickly turned to songwriting. Eventually, tastes changed and that work dried up, leading Carroll to give up the music business – forever, or so he thought.

He went to work hawking haberdashery at Bloomingdale’s and then moved to a long-running gig  in advertising.

Like all good things, that came to an end — in a layoff that put Carroll on the unemployment line for quite awhile, until he got a completely unexpected Facebook message that landed him a gig with Hall & Oates, turning him into a rock ‘n’ roller at age 52.

Read my interview with Porter Carroll Jr. and learn the rest of his remarkable story by tapping or clicking here to visit lohud.com, or pick up a copy of Tuesday’s edition of The Journal News at your local newsstand in Westchester, Rockland, or Putnam county.

Speed the Plough takes over Union Hall next Friday

Speed the Plough at The Fifth Estate in Brooklyn. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Speed the Plough at The Fifth Estate in Brooklyn. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen Speed the Plough play live. It’s not that the band hasn’t been playing — while STP doesn’t mount major tours, there have been several gigs in the area since that appearance in May at The Fifth Estate in Brooklyn. Scheduling just hasn’t worked out for me.

So I’m looking forward to seeing them at Brooklyn’s Union Hall on Friday, March 20 — and making sure the scheduling works out this time.

The New Jersey chamber pop family band will be joined by two other notable outfits: the indie super group Heroes of Toolik and Jersey-rooted Deena & the Laughing Boys.

STP and its rhythmic, classically informed pop has been part of my musical life for a long time. I can’t explain that much better than in did in a blurb I was honored to have included in the band’s 2014 retrospective album “The Plough & the Stars”:

In this crazy, uncertain world, there are precious few constants. Speed the Plough is one of them. I feel like I’ve known this band forever, even if I didn’t really discover it until 1996 … It may never displace death or taxes as one of life’s certainties, but the world is a better place with Speed the Plough giving those two a run for the money.

The lineup has changed considerably over the years, but Toni and John Baumgartner have been there all along. And there’s usually been a Demeski (first Feelies drummer Stan Demeski, whose wife Janet is John Baumgartner’s sister, and now their son John) and, for a time, another member of the Feelies, Brenda Sauter, and her husband, Rich Barnes.

Heroes of Toolik is a band that hasn’t been on my radar before, and I can’t imagine why, given its heritage. But it’s there now, for keeps, and should be on your radar, too. It has quite a heritage, drawing its notable members from a bunch of important indie bands: Arad Evans, on guitar and voice, has performed with avant garde icons Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca; Peter Zummo, on trombone, with the Lounge Lizards; Ernie Brooks, on bass, was in the Modern Lovers; drummer Billy Ficca fropm Television and the Washington Squares; and fiddler Jennifer Coates from Jenny Get Around. The band’s sound has a lot in common with STP, as this clip demonstrates.

Deena Shoshkes is somebody I’ve been planning to write about for awhile. She may be best known as a founder of Eighties indie band the Cucumbers, which was a mainstay of the Hoboken scene centered on Maxwell’s. Her second solo album, “Rock River,” was released just last yea. It’s a delightful collection of 12 tunes  that continues the joyful, almost childlike sound that the Cucumbers created. For a sample of her latest album, tap or click here.

Doors open at 8 p.m., with the show starting at 8:30, on Friday, March 20, at Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn. Admission is $10, with tickets available online by tapping or clicking here. Call 718-638-4400 or email info@unionhallny.com for more information.

Stew’s stoked about James Baldwin

Stew in the Harlem Stage theater, where his "Notes of a Native Song" premieres in June. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Stew in the Harlem Stage theater on March 11. His new show “Notes of a Native Song” premieres there in June. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

‘Passing Strange’ creator to challenge and honor author in Harlem Stage commission

Stew rarely takes the predictable route — at least in public.

So when the pop-song writer and founder of The Negro Problem ook the floor at Harlem Stage on Wednesday night for “Behind the Curtain: Stew,” a talk about his upcoming show in the beautiful Gatehouse theater, I had few expectations.

Would he talk? Would he offer a cynical take on “Notes of a Native Song,” the piece he’s creating as part of the Year of James Baldwin, which celebrates the 90th anniversary of his birth? Would he read from the show in progress? Would he perform some of the songs?

He did a little of most of those thing — with remarkable engagement and not a touch of cynicism.

The Gatehouse, a Romanesque Revival former water pumping station that's home to Harlem Stage. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

The Gatehouse, a Romanesque Revival former water pumping station that’s home to Harlem Stage. (© 2015, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Maybe the venue — in Harlem, in front of a crowd that seemed earnest and engaged, exhibiting little of the hipster affect often on display at the downtown and Brooklyn venues where Stew more often appears — had something to do with it.

But it was more than that.

“When artists talk, they, for the most part, lie,” Stew said at the outset of the evening.

I’m in no position to judge his truthfulness, but his presentation came across as warm, personable, and, honest, without a trace of pose or ennui. Stew appeared deeply engaged with his subject — his reaction to Baldwin, and Baldwin’s  relationship with mentor and impediment Richard Wright.

If the artist was lying, it was a beautiful lie.

Stew held forth with only his guitar to accompany him as he opened the program with his laugh-inducing song “Black Men Ski.” While it wasn’t clear that he intends to include that song in the June show, it set the tone for the fun to follow.

He performed four other songs and fragments that apparently are part of the show, at least as it stands at this point in its development. Based on lyrical fragments, I’ll dub the three fleshed-out numbers “Brave, Suffering, Beautiful,” “Me, and You, and Jimmy,” and “Don’t Pray for the Boy Preacher” (with music, he said, by his longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald). The fourth, of which he sang just a fragment — with some help from the audience with a spaghetti Western backing vocalization — cast Baldwin and Wright as gunslingers at High Noon in “Paris town.”

Given Stew’s position as a Tony-winning writer of rock musicals and other musical plays, such as “Passing Strange,”  you might expect “Notes of a Native Song” will be another of those, given that it will have its premiere in a respected theater.

But, based on Stew’s description, that’s not the case. He said it’ll feature “some musicians” performing the songs with scripted rants between them, because he’s comfortable with the structure of a concert.

And don’t expect the “Ken Burns, PBS James Baldwin” in this show, either. Stew promises the unexpurgated Baldwin — a detail he underscored with his unrestrained language throughout the evening — including a declaration of love for speaking all of the names that used to label African Americans over the years.

Stew seems as engaged and exited by this project as anything I’ve seen him do in years. So by that measure, it’s a safe bet that “Notes of a Native Song” will be a gem.

Get your tickets now, because it’s a short run in a small theater (just 200 seats) and it will sell out quickly.

“Notes of a Native Song” will receive six performances (fours shows at 7:30 p.m., plus two 2 p.m. matinees) from Jun 3-7, at Harlem Stage, 150 Convent Avenue, Manhattan. Tickets for the show, featuring cabaret-style seating, are $55 and available by tapping or clicking here. Call 212-281-9240 or tap or click here for more information Harlem Stage and its offerings.

Dinosaur Eyelids: Good band, kinda dumb name

Dinosaur Eyelids at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Facebook)

Dinosaur Eyelids at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Facebook)

The only reason I heard of the band Dinosaur Eyelids is because somebody from the band took the time to write and ask me to give a listen to the band’s new album.

I politely said I’d see what I could do. Eventually the album, “Bypass to Nowhere,” showed up in CD form in my mailbox. That was the first clue that this band was an anomaly of sorts: Savvy enough to mine the Internet for place to seek a friendly ear and a kind word, but still sending out CDs. (The band has rectified this a bit, as the album is now online and available for purchase on Bandcamp. Tap or click here to get it.)

I loaded the album on my phone and intended to listen to it, but I kept skipping it. Weeks later, I finally decided to give it a listen.

I’m surprised, pleased, and maybe a little puzzled by what I heard. You should check them out.

Dinosaur Eyelids (an odd band name IMHO — although that’s not a bar to quality, given the example of For Squirrels, which is still one of my personal tragic favorites) is a New Brunswick, New Jersey, band that sounds like it’s from another time. they’ve been at it since 2009. Apparently they’ve been taking it seriously, and they’re good at what they do.

Here’s how the band describes its influences on its Facebook page: “Ween, The Stooges, Wilco, Nirvana, The Replacements, Soundgarden, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, The Who, Kyuss, Neil Young.” While most of those influences are evident, none dominates. Instead, Dinosaur Eyelids has managed to process those influences into a sound that’s at once familiar and original.

The album is filled with memorable tunes, crisp guitar work, marginally bad singing (but to good and intriguing effect) on a set of songs that draw from decades of rock without ever mimicking any one era.

Dinosaur Eyelids doesn’t have a lot of shows booked at the moment. Aside from a gig in Philadelphia on March 20, its first New York show for the year is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, at The Fifth Estate, 506 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn. The ‘Lids are capping off a four-band evening that also features Territorial Breed A Tribute to Nirvana, Caramel Mask, and Long Gone West.  The show starts at 8 p.m, with the ‘Lids up at 11. Admission is $10. For more information, call the club at 718-840-0089 or check out the website by tapping or clicking here.

 

Daryl Hall invites you into his house

Daryl Hall (Handout photo)

Daryl Hall (Handout photo)

And he might even be there to greet you

Daryl Hall and John Oates (the band, that is — the longtime bandmates really prefer that to Hall & Oates, which is pretty much what everybody calls the Philadelphia rock ‘n soul band), has been a going concern for four decades and shows no sign of stopping.

The men, who met at Temple University in 1967, have had their greatest success and achieved worldwide fame through their collaboration. But they’ve also carved out artistic niches separately. Oates tours regularly as a singer-songwriter with a strong repertoire of Americana-esque sounds.

Hall has done solo work, and plan more, but in the last 6 or 7 years he’s branched out in a different direction. He’s been restoring old houses and hosting parties for his musical friends. Both of them are the subject of TV shows. There’s the new “Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall” on the DIY Network, which brings viewers inside his old-house obsession. And then there’s the long-running “Live From Daryl’s House,” started as a web-only show that’s now carried on the Palladia Network, that brings fans into the parties that Hall throws for his musical friends.

Hall’s interests got more complicated when he finished work on an old house in Millerton, New York, and moved on to a new project in Sherman, Connecticut a year or so ago. Somewhere along the way, Hall decided “LFDH” needed a permanent home. So he took over the former Towne Crier Cafe space in Pawling, New York, and remodeled it to look a lot like his Millerton place — if it were a restaurant and club.

Daryl's House club in Pawling, New York.

Daryl’s House club in Pawling, New York.

That’s how Daryl’s House club was born.

I talked to the other day for The Journal News/lohud.com.

He was pretty excited about the intimate space, which he inaugurated on Halloween with a Daryl Hall  & John Oates full-band show — dubbed Hall-oween & Oates, natch. At 68, Hall is going as strong as everl’

“I’ll be surprised” if fans ever get tired of  listening, he tells me. “I keep evolving and making things interesting, so I don’t think people are gonna get bored with me.”

Check out my conversation with Hall by going here now.

Yo La Tengo getting ‘Extra ‘Painful’ at The Town Hall this week

Yo La Tengo: Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, James McNew (Photo by Carlie Armstrong)

Yo La Tengo: Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, James McNew (Photo by Carlie Armstrong)

You can never be sure which Yo La Tengo you’ll see when you go to a show.

The cult-favorite indie rock band is a chameleonic act whose sound can careen from gentle, rhythmic folk rock to noisy guitar freakout to cover-band-style garage rock and back again — sometimes all in the same set.

YLT co-founder Ira Kaplan sat down with me the other day for an interview in advance of the band’s shows at The Town Hall in Manhattan this week — on Wednesday, with Antietam opening, and Thursday with The Feelies.) Tickets to the shows are $32.50 and $42.50, plus fees, and are available by going here to visit Ticketmaster.

We covered a wide range of topics, and Kaplan even dropped a surprising hint about the band’s unique Hannukah shows (eight shows, with multiple guests, over the eight nights of the Festival of Lights) that seemed to come to a screeching halt when Maxwell’s, the revered Hoboken, N.J., rock club that hosted them for more than a decade, closed in 2013.

Read the full interview online now by going here now, or see it in all its print glory by picking up a copy of The Journal News on Tuesday.