Author Archives: Andy Halo

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: LadilikanTrio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet
Ladilikan
(World Circuit)

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan

One of the most striking things about 40-year-old world music collective Kronos Quartet, is their ability to seamlessly weave cultures and collaborations together into something truly unique. This time around they’ve joined forces with southern Mali musicians Trio Da Kali, who played with them previously at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Trio Da Kali’s members are active contributors to the London Jazz Festival, the Festival of the Centro Historico in Mexico City, and the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

The album starts with “Tita,” which showcases Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté’s soulful vocals ...

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Living Colour: Shade

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Living Colour: ShadeLiving Colour
Shade
(Sony Music Canada Inc)

Living Colour: Shade

For the better part of thirty years, Vernon Reid’s funk-punk metal pioneers have been raising social awareness with songs like “Open Letter To A Landlord,” “Information Overload,” and “Which Way To America?” With Shade, they’re raising it even higher, offering a brutally real take on today’s political climate with no holds barred.

The first track on the album is “Freedom Of Expression,” abbreviated as “F.O.X.,” in which vocalist Corey Glover reminds us never to be sorry: “You gotta do what you want/you gotta say what you feel/you gotta be who you are/no ...

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Iron & Wine: Beast Epic

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Iron & Wine: Beast EpicIron & Wine
Beast Epic
(Sub Pop Records)

Iron & Wine: Beast Epic

For the past couple of years, Sam Beam (better known as folk/Americana project Iron & Wine) has mostly been collaborating with other artists, including Band Of Horses, Jesca Hoop, and members of Wilco. Beast Epic, by comparison, is a return to a more stripped-down production style. Yet, there’s also an undeniable sincerity and fullness to the album. The vocals really grab your attention because they’re very central in the mix and the harmonies are rich. The first song, “Claim Your Ghost,” features a subtle yet effective violin and laid back drums ...

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LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

LCD Soundsystem
American Dream
(Columbia)

LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

I vividly remember LCD Soundsystem’s “last show.” I was new to the band, but my friend had an extra ticket and promised me it was not to be missed. As monumental as it felt to be included in an experience that was equal parts sad and beautiful to the point of tearing up at the end, I couldn’t help but feel like I had arrived (almost) too late to a band that could’ve been a fixture in my life. But years later they returned to headline Coachella followed by the release of two singles, and ...

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KMFDM: Hell Yeah

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

KMFDM: Hell Yeah

KMFDM
Hell Yeah
(earMUSIC)

KMFDM: Hell Yeah

In addition to its exuberant title, which seems equal parts defiant and optimistic in that charming way that only Sascha & Co can pull off, the first thing that struck me about KMFDM’s new album was its cover art, created by their long-time collaborator Aidan Hughes (aka Brute).

It seems to epitomize what our culture has become, for better or worse. It’s a man standing on what appears to be a bridge or a tower, having just taken a selfie with a smartphone, turning the phone outwards to show the world.

The title track kicks it ...

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Danzig: Black Laden Crown

Danzig: Black Laden CrownDanzig
Black Laden Crown
(Nuclear Blast America)

Danzig: Black Laden Crown

Heavy metal crooner/shrieker Glenn Danzig and his hard-hitting band have been a little quiet for a few years on the Danzig front. This is the first new album (of original material) we’ve seen since 2010, which brought us Deth Red Sabaoth, Between then and now,  the band has played several festivals, put out a greatest hits album, and even sung some Elvis tunes on their recently completed Elvis tribute album.

Most notable was the Danzig Legacy Tour, which featured members of the Misfits, Danzig, and Samhain playing each other’s songs. If only out of curiosity for what he could possibly come up with next, I took a listen to the new album. I recommend listening to this album on headphones or good speakers or you’ll miss a lot of the punch it packs in the mix, but when you do hear it, you’ll love it.

The title track starts it off, and at first feels a little too lurching, but then by the last minute and a half, it picks up and propels us mercilessly into more familiar territory. “Devil On Hwy 9” sounds like Danzig at his best. It’s tight and pounding with a chorus reminiscent of his Misfits days. It’s also a satisfyingly aggressive performance by drummer, Joey Castillo, who is best known for his work with Queens of the Stone Age.

“Last Ride” really brings us home to the heavy metal blues that Danzig does so well. His vocals are as soulful as they are dark, with the opening rhythm section consisting only of finger snaps and the guitar pushing a steady, gritty blues riff. “Blackness Falls” is another stomper, and it’s really where the band shines. That sweet spot tempo that crawls menacingly while still leaving room for musicianship.

If you’re a fan of Samhain or earlier 90s-era Danzig, this one is worth a listen. It’s just sludgy enough to leave an impression while still keeping Danzig’s vocals very central to the songs.

Cage The Elephant: Unpeeled

Cage The Elephant: UnpeeledCage the Elephant
Unpeeled
(RCA Records)

Cage The Elephant: Unpeeled

Raucous indie rockers Cage The Elephant have evolved a lot since they first played the Outside Lands Festival and Lollapalooza in 2009, and started getting noticed. Their sound has ranged from bluesy rock to noisy indie punk, and now back towards what seems to be a winning combination of many genres.

Their previous album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, illustrated their flexibility as a band and even won them a Grammy. With Unpeeled, Cage The Elephant is live and impressively tight while still retaining a feeling of candor and intimacy.

“Whole Wide World,” a cover of 70’s singer Wreckless Eric, is catchy to the point of contagion. “Sweetie Little Jean” is a strings-laden, fast-shuffling ballad with a sort of T. Rex vibe. Another one of my favorites is their rendition of Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush,” which really allows the string section to shine. “Shake Me Down,” which originated on a toy drum kit, achieves an epic quality highlighted by Dave Grohl’s contributions as their touring drummer. “Cold Cold Cold,” which was one of their Billboard charting singles from Tell Me I’m Pretty, is electric with its energy and contrast between the verses and choruses. They even cover The Stranglers with “Golden Brown,” and definitely do it justice. Unpeeled is an ideal introduction to the band and their growth over the years. It also just sounds good; it’s well-recorded and well-paced. Whether you’ve followed Cage The Elephant since their beginnings or are new to their music, this album is a perfectly crafted retrospective.

The Fall: New Facts Emerge

The Fall: New Facts EmergeThe Fall
New Facts Emerge
(Cherry Red)

The Fall: New Facts Emerge

While catching up on The Fall’s more recent history I was surprised to find that the band has consisted of a total of 66 members throughout its impressive and rather surreal 40-year history, and that Mark E. Smith (founder and vocalist) is the only remaining original member. That said, the past decade has seen a more stable lineup than previous years.

There’s something to be said for stability, as this album feels very set in its ways compared to their previous work, much more uniform than usual. In addition to Smith’s trademark staccato, off-kilter vocal deliveries, I recognize many familiar trademarks in the first track alone.

“Segue” opens with a distorted, sing-song verse and disjointed hand claps, which cascade unapologetically into the jangly lurch of “Fol De Rol.”  “Brillo De Facto” has some catchy guitar hooks, but I feel a little cheated that I can’t understand the lyrics.

In fact, I feel like a lot of the album could use subtitles somehow, maybe as scrolling metadata embedded in the track on iTunes. I’m not sure how it would work, but I do feel that the incoherence of Smith’s vocals, takes away from the impact of this album a bit, especially given that he’s released a couple of spoken word albums and obviously has a way with words.

“Couples vs Jobless Mid 30’s” legitimately gave me weird dreams with its obnoxiously persistent drums and bizarro narrative which, again, can barely be deciphered. “O! Zztrrk Man” is a Fugazi-ish throwback to their earlier days and is joyfully noisy. Turn it up!

In short, if you’re okay with not “getting” most of the lyrics, you might enjoy this album. To be fair, Mark E. Smith has been described as “a strange kind of antimatter national treasure” and is 60 years old, so he gets to do what he wants. It’s up to you if you want to listen.

Pumarosa: The Witch

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Pumarosa: The WitchPumarosa
The Witch
(Harvest Records)

Pumarosa: The Witch

Pumarosa has been around for a little while now, having released a self-titled EP in 2016 and their “Priestess” single in 2015, which was remixed by indie-electro solo artist, Shura. It also features vocalist, Isabel Munoz-Newsome’s work as the album art, and her sister Fernanda as a dancer in the video. This album is their first full-length release and I was so busy listening to it, that it was hard to take the time to stop and write about it.

It starts with “Dragonfly,” a steady post-punk slow jam with Munoz-Newsome’s airy vocals setting the ...

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Rancid: Trouble Maker

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Rancid: Trouble Maker

Rancid
Trouble Maker
(Epitaph Records)

Rancid: Trouble Maker

In my eighth grade school picture, it’s 1996 (how time flies!), and much to my mother’s chagrin, I’m wearing a Rancid t-shirt for their album Let’s Go, which I had discovered through MTV and fallen in love with. Matt Freeman’s rapid-fire, jangling bass lines and Tim Armstrong’s authoritative bark saw me through my teenage angst and continued to be a stronghold for me well into adulthood. In the 20 years following Let’s Go, they blossomed and branched out into ska and reggae, started a record label, and even worked on some side projects (Lars ...

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Gene Loves Jezebel: Dance Underwater

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Gene Loves Jezebel: Dance UnderwaterGene Loves Jezebel
Dance Underwater
(Westworld)

Gene Loves Jezebel: Dance Underwater

As an avid 80’s music fan and mostly-reformed goth kid, I always jump at the chance to hear what all those iconic bands are up to now. Gene Loves Jezebel is an especially interesting case because of the 2009 lawsuit over the name, the feud between brothers Michael and Jay Aston, and the rather surreal decision to let each brother use the name for their iteration of the band. For example, this album was released by Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel. It was produced by Peter Walsh, who has worked with Alphaville, Clan of ...

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Slowdive: Self-Titled

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Slowdive: Self-TitledSlowdive
Slowdive
(Dead Records)

Slowdive: Self-Titled

If you’ve been following Slowdive since their inception in 1989, you’ll know that they had a rough ride when their sophomore album, Souvlaki (which included several collaborations with Brian Eno) was dismissed by critics, with no help from their US label SBK, who pulled funding for the tour and left the band holding the bag. Despite this, they tried to roll with the punches by releasing Pygmalion, which experimented with a more stripped-down aesthetic, only to be dropped from their label. By this point, several of Slowdive’s members had split off into a variety of ...

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Perfume Genius: No Shape

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Perfume Genius: No ShapePerfume Genius
No Shape
(Matador Records)

Perfume Genius: No Shape

Perfume Genius, the alias of Mike Hadreas, has crossed coasts and musical genres since the early 00s. Combining breathy indie rock with stately, epic folk, and often influenced by his classical training, his latest album No Shape is a true work of art.

The first single, “Slip Away” has a driving beat and masterful harmonies in the choruses.  “Go Ahead” has a sense of urgency with its chant of “Go ahead and try.” It’s sparse and effective, perhaps an anthem of defiance and doing better than them, whoever “they” are: “Baby, I’m already walking ...

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Passafire: Longshot

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Passafire: LongshotPassafire
Longshot
(Easy Star Records)

Passafire: Longshot

At the risk of sounding like the biggest hipster to ever hipster about anything, I was thrilled to hear that Passafire had a new one, because (here we go) I went to SCAD with them and remember when they first started out as a band, seeing their name on flyers in Savannah over a decade ago and hearing them play downtown.  Look at them now. They’ve played the Vans Warped Tour, and have played with John Brown’s Body, 311, Matisyahu, and The Wailers. So as someone who’s known their music for so long, I was really curious ...

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Alphaville: Strange Attractor

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Alphaville: Strange AttractorAlphaville
Strange Attractor

(Universal Music LLC)

Alphaville: Strange Attractor

The last time we heard from 80’s synth pop icons Alphaville, it was 2010 and they had just released Catching Rays On Giant, which capitalized heavily on the emergence of EDM into mainstream music and thus, its subsequent trending and almost constant presence. It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years, but they’re back again and this time, the few club hits are supplemented by a few mellower tracks.

The album starts with the dark and contemplative “Giants,” which is slow and unexpectedly beautiful in its textures, a perfect opener. This was the ...

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Sonic Death: Space Goth

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Sonic Death: Space GothSonic Death
Space Goth
(Svet i Teni/HOME CULT)

Sonic Death: Space Goth

You have to love a band that introduces themselves on their Bandcamp page as “two horrible motherfuckers with problems.” Sonic Death is a sludgy, psychedelic indie band from St. Petersburg, Russia who I totally dig for their raw-yet-earnest punk attitude. From the very first track on Space Goth, I knew this would be an album that I’d listen to incessantly and straight through, an experience that seems rare these days. “Enter! The Trip” has an opening that could have come out of the Lower East Side in the 70’s or 80’s with a little ...

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Goldfrapp: Silver Eye

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Goldfrapp: Silver EyeGoldfrapp
Silver Eye
(Mute)

Goldfrapp: Silver Eye

Every time Goldfrapp comes out with a new album, it’s a little bit different from the last. Constantly evolving, the Mute Records synthpop duo has run the gamut from the glam of Black Cherry to the dance floor glitz of Supernature. (I guarantee you’ve heard “Ooh La La” if you’ve set foot in a club within the past decade.) On this latest, it’s a delightful grab bag of many of their strengths as a band. “Anymore” is a sassy, anthemic stomper, which sounds like a 90’s Breeders-esque tribute to Fischerspooner. It sounds just old enough to ...

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Little Dragon: Season High

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Little Dragon: Season HighLittle Dragon
Season High
(Loma Vista Recordings)

Little Dragon: Season High

I’d heard Little Dragon here and there on various Spotify playlists and was always curious about them. When I first got this album and was listening to it at work, my co-worker walked in and recognized them immediately: “Oh yeah! They’re playing Outside Lands this year.” (Needless to say, I’m going!) Their dreamy, synth-drenched electro pop is wonderfully layered in a production style that I think the music industry needs right now; there’s a degree of nuance that makes the tracks sound both tight and huge at once. The album opens with “Celebrate,” featuring ...

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Future Islands: The Far Field

Source: Short and Sweet NYC » Music

Future Islands: The Far FieldFuture Islands
The Far Field
(4AD)

Future Islands: The Far Field

To me, the most striking thing about Future Islands is their vocalist Samuel Herring, whose passionate style invokes 80’s new wavers The Fixx or perhaps a slightly less cinematic Simple Minds. It’s a striking presence for a band whose simple, stark bass lines and sweeping synths bring us a sort of newer wave for the modern world. On The Far Field, Future Islands collaborated with producer John Congleton, who led post-punk band The Paper Chase and went on to work with artists such as St. Vincent and Swans. Congleton lent a polished, refined quality ...

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