Jon Brion, the Glen Ridge, New Jersey, -born pop genius, has been based in Los Angeles for many years and rarely performs anywhere else — sticking mostly to the legendary club Largo.
But Brion, who’s worked with important musicians and filmmakers including Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith, Robyn Hitchcock, Judd Apatow, Aimee Mann, Of Montreal, Best Coast, and Paul Thomas Anderson — makes the trek back East every to put on a show once in awhile.
He was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music opera house on Saturday night, joining the Wordless Music Orchestra as it performed his original score to accompany a big-screen presentation of the 2002 Anderson film “Punch-Drunk Love,” which stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson. (He’s also written scores for “Magnolia,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and last year’s Amy Schumer vehicle, “Trainwreck.”)
He sat in the rear, practically under the screen and pretty far out of view, but took a big bow at the end.
I bemoaned the fact that he was such a small part of the fantastic evening. But seeing and hearing him at all was better than being deprived of his massive talents altogether.
Jonathan Meiburg the lead singer and head honcho of the crew of talented hired guns that call themselves Shearwater these days (or Johnny & the Meiburgs, as one former member dubbed the band) have been playing songs from David Bowie’s 19979 album “Lodger” lately while touring then new album, “Jet Plane and Oxbow.”
On Tuesday night, the band put those 10 songs together and played them in album order at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Novelist Jessica Tom on the cover of the Life & Style section of the March 10, 2016, issue of The Journal News
Jessica Tom, a Brooklyn-based writer and foodie who grew up in the Hudson Valley town of Pleasantville, is a skilled writer, but her provocatively titled debut novel, “Food Whore,” has benefited from a large dose of good luck, too.
It took the Yale-trained writer five years of hard works to get her first novel published. But the luck kicked in even before the book came out. She was lucky to get a bonus that most novelists — first-timers and veterans alike — can only dream of: Hollywood’s DreamWorks studio bought an option on her New York City-centric tale of food and intrigue.
I had a chance to chat with Tom about growing up in Westchester County and the process of writing “Food Whore,” in an interview published Thursday in The Journal News.
The cover of Jennifer O’Connor’s album “Surface Noise” (March 4, 2016, Kiam Records) features an ambitious abstract painting, “There 48,” by Brooklyn artist Joan LeMay.
I’ve never been one to make best-of lists when it comes to music. I enjoy so much of what I hear that it’s difficult to pick favorites.
So I won’t say that Jennifer O’Connor‘s forthcoming album, “Surface Noise,” out March 4, 2016, on Kiam Records, is a sure-fire pick for my best of 2016 list, since I’m not likely to compile one.
I can say it’s the best new album I’ve heard so far in this still-young year — and I fully expect to feel that way about it when this year is winding down.
“Surface Noise” is packed with 12 songs that explore love, loss, and the challenges of life with a casual brilliance about this album that makes it the best work this talented artist has produced so far.
Stew and Eszter Balint are on the bill at The Living Room in Brooklyn on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (Photos by Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)
It’ll be a weird and wonderful night on Friday, Dec. 11 at The Living Room in Brooklyn.
Stew, the main main in the band The Negro Problem and the Tony Award-winning creator of “Passing Strange,” will be playing a role of “Singing MC” at The Living Room.
It’ll be Stew’s second appearance in recent months at the newish Brooklyn home of the longtime Lower East Side music venue.
He’ll be hosting an evening of music featuring a spending lineup of quirky performers, including a favorite of mine: quirky singer/songwriter/actress Eszter Balint. If you don’t know her music — no shame in that because her albums have been few and far between — be sure to check out her newest collection, Airless Midnight, released earlier this year. It’s in my regular listening rotation.
When I met Jamie Block for the first time, back in 2013, the onetime anti-folk singer-songwriter he was on the comeback trail. The longtime Rockland County resident had gotten through a difficult time in his life. By his own account, he had hit bottom and found his way up again before releasing the impressive “Whitecaps on the Hudson,” his first album in seven years.
His effort to promote that album led to a relationship with Brooklyn filmmaker Onur Turkel, which at first apparently was intended to produce some music videos. But things blossomed and what resulted is a full-length comedy, “Abby Singer/Songwriter,” starring Block, daughters Johanna and Sophie, and the filmmaker. And you’ll be able to see it here in the New York City area for the first time next week.
I’ve seen clips, which are quite funny, but haven’t seen the finished product yet. So here’s a description of it from a film festive website:
A comedy with real heart, Abby Singer, Songwriter tells the tale of a filmmaker and a musician who meet and start working together in a union that at times seems the most ill-fated creative partnership in history. Luckily for us, it’s also one of the funniest, as terrible music video ideas come to life, recurring jokes land perfectly and don’t hold back on political correctness and the film builds layer upon layer of character driven conundrums to form its perfect NYC-set universe. Featuring real-life musician Jamie Block and real-life director Onur Tukel playing fictionalized versions of themselves, the film is a throwback to great independent films as a unique story and structure pay off in spades. As Jamie tries to survive Onur and make a real connection with his daughters he must also face the prospect that the two things are becoming increasingly, hilariously intertwined.
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.
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.
It didn’t take long for the upbeat, passionate sound to reel me right in.
But I learned at Littlefield in North Slope, Brooklyn, last night that their recordings pale in comparison to their live performances. There were 12 members of Mother Falcon (the band, always big, varies in number as I understand it) on Littlefield’s generous stage. Every one of the players obviously put heart and soul into the set. Continue reading →
On her new album, “Are We There,” Sharon Van Etten asks a question — though her designer left off the question mark — whose answer depends very much on who you’re asking.
I’ve been having a debate with someone about Sharon that demonstrates that there’s no clear answer to the question.
My debate partner thinks Sharon, whose first album, 2009’s Because I Was in Love, was a fairly stripped-down, singer-songwriter affair, has exhibited an increasing tendency to lean too heavily on studio tricks and production techniques, burying her voice, obscuring her lyrics, and seriously undercutting the impact of her songs. And her first impression of the new album is that it continues in that vein.
I had similar reservations at first, but now, after listening to Are We There a dozen times, I think that Sharon may have f0und her sweet spot.