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Issue #42 Volume #2 Spring 2015 www.thedelimagazine.com
best of nyc 2015 porches
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music and art from the the nyc nyc music underground everything about scene Issue #42 Vol. #2 Spring 2015 thedelimag.com Paolo De Gregorio Charles Newman Editor: Brian CHidester executive Editor: quang d. tran graphic designer: Kaz Yabe (www.kazyabe.com) Cover: paul storey (photography), Michael Zadick (design) Staff Illustrators: JP Peer Michael p. Sincavage I-Nu yeh hip-hop editor: Jason Grimste (aka brokemc) Gear Expos assistant: Andrés Marín Web Developers: Mark Lewis Alex Borsody mike levine Distribution Coordinator: Kevin Blatchford Contributing Writers: ben apatoff Francesca Baker jp basileo Dave Cromwell Jillian P Dooley Bill Dvorak robert frezza Michael Haskoor Emilio Herce Mike Levine leora mandel Kenneth Partridge jake saunders Michael Sosnick sammie spector Dean van nguyen zachary weg
best nyc Emerging Artists p20-53
Editor In Chief / Publisher: Founder:
Ryan Dembinsky Brandon Stoner
The Kitchen: Interns:
Maylis Personnaz The Deli Magazine LLC / Mother West, NYC
The Deli Magazine is a trademark of The Deli Magazine, LLC, Brooklyn & Mother West, NYC. All contents ©2015 The Deli Magazine. All rights reserved.
Notes from the Editor The Deli’s mission is two-fold: (1) to be a musicians’ resource for the latest trends in style, technology, and gear; and (2) to give coverage to the broadest swath of emerging talent in NYC. While the entrenched beneficiaries of the status quo might find what we do superfluous, we trust that the next wave of “cyclic turns,” as the poet Robinson Jeffers called them, will naturally be outside the mainstream. In any case, once a year, the magazine devotes an entire issue to the results of an industry poll, where the 100 ‘Best of NYC’ acts are selected and then booked for our Best of NYC Fest (see next page). We the critics also get to wax poetic about why they deserve greater attention. No one at Deli headquarters was much surprised to find indie quintet Porches finishing #1, though we’ve been chasing them to grace our cover for over a year now. With the help of Paul Storey’s theandric lens, the deed was finally done. Yet, as recognition magnifies idiosyncrasy, Ben Apatoff’s cover story finds the band elusive as ever. But then you came looking for artists. So without further ado, we give you the best, the brightest, the quirkiest—straight from your town. Brian Chidester, Editor 5/10/2015 (Dedicated to the great B.B. King, R.I.P.)
For artist links: thedelimag.com/nyc2015
1. Porches 2. Mitski 3. beverly
35. Feral Foster 36. Palberta 37. TOONS 38. Run the Jewels 4. Charly Bliss 38. Cricket Tell 5. Great Caesar the Weather 6. Tei Shi 38. Hector’s Pets 7. Future Punx 41. Rocket & The Ghost 8. Heeney 41. Psychic Twin 9. Sunflower Bean 41. Nick Hakim 10. Little Daylight 44. Howard 11. Sons of an 45. Public Access TV Illustrious Father 46. Ryn Weaver 11. Dead Stars 46. Morning Sun 13. Winstons + The Essentials 14. STRNGRS 46. Flagland 14. Ava Luna 49. Pete Ayres Band 16. Bluffing 50. Animal Years 17. Celestial Shore 51. PC Worship 18. Jeremy & 51. Jane Lee Hooker the Harlequins 53. Chargaux 18. Mainland 54. braeves 20. Christie Belanger 55. Big Neck Police 21. Ellis Ashbrook 56. Throw Vision 22. Frankie Cosmos 57. Quitty and 23. Yellerkin The Dont’s 24. Hiss Golden 58. Every Flavor Messenger Weather Machine 25. The Fluids 59. kdh 26. The Landing 60. Memorial Gore 26. Lynette Williams 61. Circus Life 28. GRUMBY 62. Mike Wilson 29. Hey Anna 63. Highly Suspect 30. Late Cambrian 64. BOROKO 31. Bonsai 65. Slothrust 32. DREAMERS 66. Ratking 32. Teen Commandments 66. Parlour Tricks 32. Johnnie Lee Jordan 68. The Prettiots
68. CLOUDER 68. crying 71. MOTHXR 72. VÉRITÉ 72. Galcher Lustwerk 72. Jason Howell 72. Kiss Slash Crooked Smile 76. WET 76. Wonderful Humans 76. Belle Mare 80. Michael Daves 81. Big Huge 82. Viktor Longo 82. ONWE 84. The Cabana Kids 84. Exocomet 86. LAVACHILD 87. Pants Velour 88. Sly Moth 88. Z&A 90. Jack + Eliza 91. Modern Rivals 92. Blkkathy 93. Easterns Hollows 94. Canon Logic 95. Landlady 96. 1-800-BAND 97. Bosco 97. Cantina 97. Kate Davis 100. Icewater 101. Your Old Droog 102. Fern Mayo 102. Black Diamondz (intergalactic wave)
Best of NYC Poll 2015 Jurors Alex Borsody (independent show organizer), Alex Rossiter (Webster Hall), Andy Bodor (Cake Shop), Ariel (Palisades), Billy Jones (Baby’s All Right), Diane Gentile (Bowery Electric), Christina Cook (Sofar Sound), Clark (The Delancey), Eric Berrebbi (Arlene’s Grocery), Eric Weiner (The Wild Honey Pie), Free Williamsburg, George Flanagan (Rough Trade NYC), Heath Miller (Webster Hall), Jacob Moyers (Cameo Gallery), Jaime Dominguez (SESAC), Jen Lyon (Bowery Electric), Lauren Beck (The L magazine), Matt Currie (Rockwood Music Hall), Matt McDonald (CMJ), Max Brennan (Lit Lounge), Mike Leonard (Bowery Presents), Nora Dabdoub (Shea Stadium), Patrick McNamara (Oh My Rockness), Rami Haykal (Glasslands), Samantha Cox (BMI), Steven King (The Rock Shop), Steven Matrick (Pianos), Tim Maginnis (Ascap), Todd Abramson (Maxwells), Paolo De Gregorio (The Deli).
the deli Spring 2015
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French space-rock band Magma played NYC last month for the first time in 44 years. Reports from the 1971 event had concertgoers heaping angry epithets at Christian Vander & co.’s aggressive songs about environmentally-afflicted earthlings who colonize a distant planet called Kobaia. This time New Yorkers were better prepared. Indeed, the rumblings are small, but there’s a very real sense that space-rock is a burgeoning trend. The Magma of old had Apollo 11 and Situationism; today’s space bands have the Mars Rover and Occupy. To be sure, space parties were a major part of the ‘90s rave scene in NYC, though rock has been slower to rejoin the program. ISON: A Space Opera, written and performed by indierockers Color, is a welcome exception. The multimedia concept was mounted at the Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, where Color played post-rock jams in front of homemade videos of the ill-fated Ison comet, whilst a panel of astrophysicists shared the stage. More recently, electro darling M. Dwinell hosted a winter space party at the Schoolhouse in Bushwick, replete with geometric video art and
Brooklyn’s Vostok live at Bar Matchless (Photo by Juliette Lê)
planetarium-style light shows. Debuting material from his new album, Golden Ratio, Dwinell’s increased compositional freedom channeled, at times, Terry Riley’s Shri Camel (1982) and sidetwo of Kraftwerk’s seminal Autobahn LP (1975). Elsewhere, Brooklyn’s Vostok are back. Having taken their name from a ‘60s Soviet spacecraft, the band’s sound is ‘70s-style German Krautrock, with heavily-vocoded singing. In
2013, they played an art gallery on N. 14th St. in Williamsburg filled with piles of rock-salt shaped like the surface of the moon. They wore orange astronaut suits and were covered by experimental space videos. Recent shows have witnessed a host of new songs, including the epigrammatic “Quasars of Ra,” while the space suits remain. (Brian Chidester)
Records of the Month
lost boy? Canned Canned is a collection of soon-to-be-hits that marries clever riffs with playful ambition. Sandwiched between “Hollywood”’s endlessly hummable verses and “Hemorrhage”’s disaffected vocals, we get 11 tracks of unpolished pop-punk. (The LP cover’s nod to Warhol’s Soup Can series could be an outright confession of the pop influence.) Each song, in fact, seems readymade for a future version of Mad Men, where 21st century copy writers are jaded and coy about subjects from tobacco to butter, fried chicken, banks, and, well, the future in general. Taken together, the lo-fi approach, messy guitars, and chirpy vocals prove that, for Lost Boy?, taking themselves unseriously is serious business. (Michael Sosnick)
the deli Spring 2015
bonsai Self-Titled This dreamy alt-folk gem quickly slips past the bonds of classification with opener “Bonsai Trees,” which shows the trio mixing traditional Americana with the swirling textures of the Cure. (The EP’s sleeve art takes inspiration from them too.) The magic continues on “When It Rains,” a more subdued track that oozes reverb and sensuality. Vocalist Simone Stevens turns up the heat on “I Fashion You’re a Dreamer,” whose powerfully uplifting chorus clarifies which kind of dream we’re talking about here. (It’s the aspirational type.) Two final cuts are competent, though it’s on the basis of those first three that this small, beautiful record merits revisiting. (paolo de gregorio)
future punx I’m So Inspired With vocals that recall the plaintive style of Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis and a production style recalling Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men?, Future Punx’s I’m So Inspired is an obvious choice for Record of the Month. “Plus Side” is a personal favorite. Its web of funky guitars and Farfisa organ showcase singer Chris Pickering’s aforementioned tenor with a minimal spray of well-picked notes. Opener “I’m So Inspired” and third track “Forgive the Doubt” confirm the band’s flirtation with both post-punk and funk music. “Plus Side” promises, “I won’t lie to you,” which feels paradoxical and tongue-in-cheek, like everything else here. (paolo de gregorio)
Fresh Buzz | New Artists
21-year-old songwriter Elliot Moss has generated lots of recent buzz, mainly on the basis of his sonically-alluring debut, Highspeeds (self-produced). It’s rare, in fact, to find songs so incredibly intense and altogether quirky, maybe because musicians interested in intensity tend to stick with traditional genres, while those reaching for originality go for trickery. Either way, Moss’ breakout single, “Slip,” is bare-edged and soulful, despite its vocoded vocals. It almost sounds, in fact, like the masculine flip-side of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” (paolo de gregorio)
Feel-good riffs and dancy rhythms constitute the majority of Kuroma’s first full-band record, Kuromarama. The Athens/Brooklyn quartet was conceived in 2008 by MGMT’s current guitarman Hank Sullivant, but only congealed last year when they enlisted James Richardson, Will Berman (both of MGMT), and Simon O’Connor (of Amazing Baby) as permanent members. The results show the whole to be greater than the sum of its many parts. First single, “Love Is on the Way” is an island-flavored ‘80s-style bacchanalia that, like the rest of the album, oscillates between the hearty and the way-out. (JP Basileo)
Photo: Amber Simiriglia
Despite rumors of a mass exodus out of NYC, we recently snagged Mackenzie Scott (of songwriting project Torres) from Nashville—cause for celebration. For if there’s something dangerous happening, she’s touching it. On songs like “Honey” and “Cowboy Guilt,” Scott sings couplets over and over until every inch of grace and tolerance are replaced by shrieks of pure madness. In the past, Torres gigged with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and worked with Sharon Van Etten. Now they headline Brooklyn Night Bazaar and Bowery Ballroom. Sophomore album Sprinter was released on May 7. (Leora Mandel)
Mark Twain once said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis trio Strange Names know a little something about that. Eschewing nudity (or musical austerity, at least), the band’s Hall and Oates-like soul-pop has injected new life into NYC’s decade-old ‘80s revival. New video “Ricochet” conjures the hedonic, strobing minimalism of early MTV, minus the technological glitches (which could go either way). The trio released their debut LP in May after opening for Azelia Bank on four dates. (paolo de gregorio)
Kudos to Brooklyn indie rockers Honduras, who were first hand-picked by Blur to open for them at a May 1st live show at Rough Trade, then, a few weeks later, opened for METZ and Fidlar at Bowery. Honduras also recently unleashed a new single, titled “Paralyzed,” which bears more than a passing likeness to a home-grown New Jersey favorite: the Feelies. (There’s also hints of Blur during their more frenetic days here.) Pop-punk choruses spice these rock anthems with plenty of crossover potential. (paolo de gregorio) 10
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In the video for “#,” hip-hop duo OSHUN—nee Niambi Sala and Thandiwe— resurrect the time-tested spirit of Public Enemy. And though they flaunt the shibboleth of Afrocentrism in lines like, “No this ain’t conspiracy/We know we ain’t equal/This the revolution, motherfucker/This the sequel,” there is complexity to their locus. Topical songs, once schlepped out to mark new periods of revolution, are now a staple of pop as much as the underground. Either way, OSHUN have taken the temperature of the times and declared it red hot. (Jason Grimste)
NYC Art in Music
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Before podcasts, online playlists, or personalized Pandora stations, music lovers made mix tapes. And while cassettes never matched the fidelity of vinyl or CD, their malleability (and portability) won over music fans’ hearts for nearly 30 years. The medium reached an aesthetic peak in the 1980s, when aficionados like Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and KROQ deejay Rodney Bingenheimer mined the deepest underground corners for garage-band gold, presenting their cassette-dubbed results to FM radio, or in the pages of alternative music magazines. Punk, DIY, and noise artists kept the format alive through the early years of digitization, but by 2003, cassettes were considered a dead format. The “mixtape” nom de plume survived, however, to become common parlance in the blogosphere for writers and bedroom DJs alike. Then something surprising happened. The MP3 essentially killed the CD, while old record albums re-emerged as collectible. Pressings of new recordings to vinyl became cult items. The price of producing vinyl for new NYC bands, however, proved steep. Cassettes became, once more, a viable option for physical product. Over the past several years, NYC acts like Small Black, Dum Dum Girls, and the Dirty Projectors (to name a few) have released on cassette, while labels like I Had an Accident and Not Not Fun release solely to cassette. These days, cassettes are très chic. They appear on apparel, jewelry, posters, even gallery walls. Rectangular cassette cases, with their hidden folds, present a fresh form of low-brow expressionism. Unpretentious manifestations range from professionally-manufactured, color-coordinated tapes, to screen-printed, hand-stitched cardboard, to scissorcut photocopies. Whether you play them or just collect ‘em, their dazzling limited editions have proved a durable alternative once more. (Jason Grimste)
All cassettes in this spread were designed and produced in NYC.
Feature I The Biz
the deli Spring 2015
Architecture and Morality
The Rise and Fall of DIY Williamsburg Written by Brian Chidester / Illustration by Maria and Peter Hoey
Dollars to donuts I’m not alone in wishing a moratorium declared on the word “gentrification.” Not because it didn’t (or hasn’t) happened, but because life is short and pointing fingers rarely yields constructive results. Besides, when did we all start getting so attached to walls? Actually, for generations, neighborhoods in NYC have transformed overnight from run-down to artistically vibrant, only to be turned trendy when high rent costs and an influx of upscale eateries drive away the originals who turned their tide. You know the ones I’m talking about: the Greenwich Village that hosted beats, folkies, and punks for over three decades from the late 1940s through the ’70s; the East Village of new wavers and post-moderns during the ‘80s and early ‘90s; the Soho of mid-’90s ravers and alt-rockers. And, for those of us who came of age since the new millennium, there’s Williamsburg, that former immigrants hamlet just across the East River in Brooklyn that became square-one in the aughts explosion of DIY. These days, no neighborhood in New York City quite signals the collective discontent of bohemian types like “Ol’ Billyburg,” which Paul Adler, writing in a recent op-ed for culture blog Cuepoint, called, “Old news. Dead and gone. Passé,” concluding, “You know it, I know it, hell, your mother probably even knows it.” For over a decade, however, Williamsburg was the center of the new century’s first great artistic movement. The timing was perfect. The internet was suddenly in over 75% of American homes and democratizing technologies like Photoshop, ProTools, and Final Cut Pro made financially-daunting enterprises like film, music, and design suddenly possible. Yet, walking the streets around Bedford Avenue today, any remnant of a once-flourishing movement are long gone, replaced by expensive wine shops, artisan retailers, a new Whole Foods, even the area’s first Starbucks. These and myriad other harbingers of Williamsburg’s descent into banality angered many, but surprised none. The writing, it seems, has been on the wall for some time. Indeed, when Glasslands Gallery (Kent and S. 1st) closed on New Year’s 2014, it was the last of the original DIY clubs still in operation. Preceded by closures of long-time favorites Death by Audio and 285 Kent, Glasslands commemorated the moment with a “Dance Party Funeral for the Neighborhood of Williamsburg” (December 6th), which became unaffectionately known as the “Nail in the Coffin.” Tom Hawking of Flavorwire wrote: “From 2015 onwards, there will officially be no reason to go to Williamsburg again.” Death by Audio and Glasslands, who shared a street-long building next to one another, made way for the new offices of Vice magazine. By the end of the year, the Gothamist reported another closing: that of Spike Hill, a smaller, lessstoried venue next the Bedford L stop, which the website confirmed by talking to a janitor. Management dodged angry regulars and media reporters (including yours truly) for months, though it seems now the edifice has been gutted inside. What will replace it is not yet known. Then again, New York has undergone such remarkable changes in the last three decades that it often doesn’t seem like the same city.
Break It Down Again For those old enough to remember, 1977 was the year of the citywide blackout. City-dwellers faced a daily onslaught of apocalyptic headlines about the Son of Sam murder spree, impending municipal bankruptcy, and tales of drugtorn Brooklyn, which seemed on the brink of self-destruction. Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg had already witnessed three centuries of drastic change. It evolved, like much of NYC, from a Dutch farming community in the 1700s to an independent city during the 19th century. Irish, German, and Austrian immigrants were the first to establish businesses and build homes in the city. (It was annexed in 1855.) Later, some of the largest industrial firms in the nation grew in Williamsburg, including Brooklyn Flint Glass (later Corning Ware), Astral Oil (later Standard Oil), and the Havemeyer-Elder Sugar Refinery, which became Domino Sugar, whose industrial factory on the waterfront under the Williamsburg Bridge was landmarked in 2007, then opened by city counselors to a private real estate company with plans to raze it and erect a new residential high-rise. (A summer 2014 art show by California sculptor Kara Walker proved the old structure’s last hurrah.) the deli Spring 2015
By the early 2000s, a small group of artists and impresarios, figuring they were never going to own their own real estate in the traditional sense, decided to approach the renting of a run-down space with a collectivist mentality. A post-WW2 wave of Puerto Rican families were the neighborhood’s last influx of new inhabitants until the late 1990s, when artist types, no longer able to afford rising rents in Manhattan, began the mass exodus into Brooklyn. The origins of DIY Williamsburg were inauspicious enough, though some say they saw it coming. Graffiti artist Cern One is a native New Yorker; he still has a studio on N. 10th by the riverfront in Williamsburg, though, he claims, “Every artist’s days here are numbered.” Cern first started painting the area’s old industrial walls during the 1990s, when that meant traversing the blight of the borough’s three-decade neglect. “The Nineties were rough still,” remembers Cern. “You can’t imagine it today, but there were abandoned cars on the streets, cars cut in half, fires.” Despite all that, Cern says he knew it would eventually become a new hot-spot. “One stop on the L train,” he says, pointing out his studio window in frustration. “It’s obvious.”
Gonna Start a Revolution from My Bed At first, things started slowly. Illegal raves were thrown by drum’n’bass and jungle enthusiasts in the same industrial warehouses that Cern and his friends were tagging. McCarren Park, out of commission for decades, began hosting movie nights, with skate-rats and bohemian types cramming into the pool for screenings of experimental movies like El Topo. An art gallery moved into an old pierogi factory on N. 9th in 1995 and ironically dubbed itself Pierogi Gallery. Quickly filled with the druggier side of art, SF native Joe Amrhein held some of the first exhibitions by psychedelic kingpin Fred Tomaselli. By the early 2000s, there was enough action happening just across the river from Manhattan that a small group of artists and impresarios, figuring they were never going to own their own real estate in the traditional sense, decided to approach the renting of a run-down space with a collectivist mentality. They called it Monster Island. Named after the fictional dwelling of Japan’s mega-lizard Godzilla, Monster Island was a multipurpose, DIY art space at the northwest corner of Kent and Metropolitan Avenue. According to upstart screenprinter Karl Larocca (aka Kayrock), it was Erik Zajaceskowski, a young artist instilled with the DIY ethos, who secured the lease and worked feverishly to repair the warehouse’s leaky roofs and other assorted damages. Monster Island quickly became square-one for the diverse range of creative enterprises that included the art gallery Live with Animals, the Todd P Practice Spaces, Mollusk Surf Shop, Zajaceskowski’s Secret Project Robot art environment, Kayrock Screenprinting, and the flop-pad of local band Oneida. More than anything, Monster Island was a cross-section of the new breed that moved in to Williamsburg: educated, artistic, ambitious, yet cynical of the establishment, and mostly white. At the time, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were still very fresh in the minds of New Yorkers. The alt-rock sound of the early-to-mid-’90s had largely faded, replaced on mainstream radio by the kind of regressive pop seen in manufactured acts like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, as well as TV-made acts from shows like American Idol. Though the indie-rock (or DIY) sound had been around since the mid-’80s—with bands like Guided by Voices, Hüsker Dü, and the Pixies—it only began making a lasting dent on the underground in the mid-’90s, when acts like Pavement, Weezer, and the Elephant 6 Recording Co. generated critical and crossover attention. Interest also re-ignited for the dormant synth style of ‘80s acts like New Order, Tears for Fears, Berlin, and OMD. Proving that everything in the universe is recyclable, aughts Williamsburg dubbed these newly hybridized genres “DIY” and “Electroclash.” The new progenitors pitched their fusions to clubgoers on the Lower East Side and warehouse parties in riverfront Brooklyn. The revolution eventually made 16
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its way to albums, many recorded in the artists’ bedrooms, using the new home-studio technology. This is where acts like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, TV on the Radio, Fischerspooner, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dirty Projectors, Neon Indian, and Japanther all came in. Though few were native New Yorkers, their sound became synonymous with the “Second Borough”’s new movement, dubbed by one critic at the Village Voice as “indie rock’s ambrosia of the gods.” One such refugee was Todd Patrick (aka Todd P), who came to Brooklyn in 2001 and quickly established himself as the area’s Bill Graham. Patrick promoted shows at lofts, on rooftops, and in other unofficial spaces. Monster Island was his central nexus of activity. Patrick eschewed the vagaries of permits and liquor licenses, unleashing bands with “an adventurous squall of sound,” wrote the Gothamist, “before a sweaty, writhing all-ages crowd.” “Brooklyn,” proclaimed Patrick to the muck-racking blog in ‘07, “has become a place where young, college educated people wanted to live bohemian lives—and because of that there’s the possibility of being able to live in New York City and being able to sort of afford it without having to hold the most serious day job in the world.” He goes on to compare Brooklyn to Oakland, Austin, and Portland, the latter commemorated in the ticklish Portlandia sketch “The Dream of the ‘90s Is Alive in Portland,” where hosts Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein issue a similar thesis on the fading ethos of the late 20th century. The action quickly spread from Monster Island. Death by Audio and Glasslands opened nearby on Kent Avenue; Silent Barn and Todd P’s short-lived Llano Estacado club booked looser, all-ages shows. Concerts at Northsix were so wild that the older denizens of the neighborhood made monthly city council efforts to get it shut down. Yet still they came. Used record shops, vintage clothes boutiques, refurbished dive bars, and a few emporiums for alternative literature rounded out the area’s renaissance. Glasslands was amongst the first to go semi-legit, proving a pivotal venue in the DIY explosion by hosting indie icons like Tame Impala, alt-J, and Delicate Steve at the beginnings of their careers. Essentially another converted warehouse, Glasslands united the visual and the musical, installing such handmade stagecraft as a set of hovering pink clouds and chandeliers made of recycled PVC pipes. By then the aesthetic was garnering serious attention from the papers of record. “Around 2007,” remembers Kayrock, “you’d open up the Village Voice and see the listings and, like, more than half of them would be for shows at Brooklyn clubs, for bands that we’d seen start up in bedrooms or loft spaces right next to ours. That’s when I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be ours for much longer.’” Before any of them knew it, the forces of the free market stepped in to exploit the new demographic. The media too wasted no time declaring the explosion “Peak Brooklyn,” while its constituency were dubbed “hipsters.” The old, abandoned factories were converted into expensive condomini-
ums and sleek apartment complexes. New construction of high-rise buildings further changed the face of the neighborhood. The vintage boutiques and atmospheric dive bars of record were augmented by upscale restaurants, artisan shops, and trendy micro-brew pubs. The waterfront, once fallen into neglect, was revitalized after a May 2005 citywide re-zoning allowed for parks and affordable housing to be completely made-over. “Never had life been so easy,” wrote author Jiri Mucha of late 19th century Vienna. He might have easily been describing late-aughts Williamsburg when he called it, “merry and carefree,” surmising, “never had the splendour of the court fallen so profligately on all the Emperor’s subjects.” Depending on the store window, Williamsburg either felt like the epicenter of cool, or the fall of the Roman Empire. There were hipster tours of Williamsburg; a small Brooklyn museum on Metropolitan that seemed to run to its own off-hours schedule; North 6th had its own Urban Outfitters and cheesy “surf bar.” If at first it seemed Williamsburg was manufactured in Japan and re-assembled by pot smokers living discreetly off-the-grid, it was now in danger of losing its hardwon identity altogether. As rents climbed to astronomical prices in 2010, many of the artists that gave it its new identity were forced to move out. Finger-pointing was endemic; the allusive hipster became whipping boy #1. Even the New York Times, voice of the liberal establishment, turned its gaze inward in a piece facetiously titled, “Brooklyn, Planet Earth.” Therein, editor Philip B. Corbett asks: “What’s next? Describing Manaus as the Williamsburg of the Amazon? Katmandu as the Cobble Hill of Nepal?” Corbett, in fact, doesn’t deny the paper’s fascination with Brooklyn— especially certain neighborhoods. “But,” he continues, “as a colleague... recently pointed out, we now seem to be using Brooklyn as the measuring stick or point of comparison for everywhere.” As each new neighborhood became the next center of youth culture, the feeling was that they were just replicating the Williamsburg ethos and its interest in vintage arcana and reverie with all things handmade.
Nothing Ever Lasts Forever On September 11, 2011, Monster Island announced it would close. Official reason: the landlord wanted to redevelop the property and refused to renew the lease. Its psychedelic murals were the first to go. The implications were clear. In the aftermath of Monster Island, Secret Project Robot moved east, into an old auto body shop in Bushwick; Kayrock Screenprinting found new digs at an industrial space in Greenpoint. Several of the artists from the Mollusk Surf Shop moved out to the Rockaways to be closer to the action. Todd Patrick continued to support the DIY phenomenon he initiated, though, resigned to the fact that the conditions had drastically changed, he told this magazine in 2013: “I used to be interested in what a promoter could do with no money. Now I’m interested in what a promoter can do with a middle-class income.” He still talks about mounting another nightclub, and has bandied about the idea of placing it in the old Market Hotel in Bushwick, but thus far it hasn’t happened. When Glasslands announced its eminent closure on October 21, 2014, Impose magazine founder Derek Evers published a screed titled “Another Brooklyn Venue Closes (And It’s All Your Fault).” He lambasted the local readership for opening the door to big corporations and ruination. “For every free corporate-sponsored show you’ve attended,” Evers insists,
“and every free frosty (sponsored) beverage you’ve drank, it is your fault. For every sell-out debate you’ve had with someone in the past decade, settling on the conclusions that you ‘might as well get the money while you can’ or ‘if we don’t take the money, someone else will,’ this is your fault. That time your band played a cheesy festival to make some extra cash to fill the gas tank; or when you took your job skills to a larger company, choosing financial security over the excitement of creating your own identity. For every Williamsburg Starbucks pumpkin-spiced latte, every ironic shirt you bought from Urban Outfitters, every episode of Girls you tweeted about.” Even cheese-eaters, it seems, are not safe.
At its heart, Williamsburg represented a chance to get it right where previous generations had failed. In one respect, however, Evers is right. For as much as the early DIY denizens of Williamsburg sought to reuse existing structures and revamp ones in disrepair, their moving in to begin with brought the kind of youthful vitality that was bound to change an entrenched demographic. Such are utopian ideals. The question is: could things have gone differently? I can’t help but think of the Ray character in Evers’ scapegoated Girls (itself no stranger to criticism). Ray (played by actor Alex Karpovsky) is a thirty-something barista at a coffee shop, given to tirades of anger and dissolution at the loss of consciousness in current NYC. His tragedy (like so many of us) is that he can find no mitigating solution to do anything more than complain. If it all sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because, at its heart, Williamsburg represented a chance to get it right where previous generations had failed. Thus, even as “Peak Brooklyn” moved on to other neighborhoods, there is the creeping sense that the fate of Williamsburg will eventually be the fate of each new creative enclave. To be sure, the last few years have seen any number of popular new underground venues in the borough. Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg has no shortage of patrons each Friday/Saturday night. Northsix is now the institutionalized Music Hall of Williamsburg; Baby’s All Right, Cameo and Rough Trade Records (imported from London to N. 9th Street) each boast indie-rock shows of a more sparkly retinue, while Bushwick has a number of new clubs ranging from punk to experimental, including Alphaville, Trans-Pecos, and Bohemian Grove. Greenpoint has had a few clubs that threatened to breakout, including the Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Banker and Norman, which, as of this writing, has announced it will close for good on May 23rd. Besides the little LES-based fort of venues, Manhattan has alt-cabaret and its associated speakeasies, but otherwise offers little in the way of alternative culture. These are the latest, but doubtless the last. Perhaps what makes this whole thing so rich with tragedy is the fact that, if you weren’t there to’ve experienced the DIY explosion first-hand, and there’s no real reason to come across it anymore in Williamsburg, what you’re left with is a few fleeting images and couple tales that grow taller with each passing year. There are no lasting structures or landmarks that testify to its spirit and achievement. What’s more, the artists and bands that were once inextricably linked to the neighborhood, these days, mostly repudiate it, or deny having ever been involved. “Williamsburg is like a punchline,” laments Rachel Nelson, co-founder of Secret Project Robot. She and Zajaceskowski are sweeping the floors in their Bushwick space one morning after an opening for a new installation. I press them for serious comment on the matter. Instead, they toss back and forth cynical quips, trying to keep things light. Nelson finally says it feels half-finished, but doesn’t know what else to say. Zajaceskowski shrugs his shoulders in agreement. “In a way,” he concludes, “it almost seems like it was something we just dreamed up.” d the deli Spring 2015
Extra I The Biz
A Travelogue of NYC’s Modern Speakeasies By Allison Marchese
New Yorkers have once again caught speakeasy fever. Sure, it’s no longer the 1920s, yet several recent phenomena converged to bring the discreetly-hidden, Prohibition-style watering hole back into vogue. First is the Disneyfication of Manhattan, which has lost much of its former danger and thus sent natives in search of more subterranean corners. Then there is the resurgence of ‘50s burlesque, Mad Men fever, and interest in even earlier fashions revived in subgenres like “steampunk” and “altcabaret.” New Yorkers hardly need a reason to dress up and party, but thought you’d still enjoy this hush-hush guide to the latest in underground entertainment. The Backroom Bar
Tucked behind a false wall at the Stone Street Coffee Company in Chelsea, Bathtub Gin features turn-of-the-century décor and naturally a bathtub in the center of the room. Live cabaret music and carefully crafted cocktails, including its namesake, the Bathtub Gin Martini, make this one of the seedier new additions to NYC speakeasy culture.
124 Old Rabbit Club
For those that pine for the days when Greenwich Village was the center of punk-rock in the states, the Old Rabbit Club (124 MacDougal) is the place to drown your sorrows in like-minded company. From street level, you literally have to go down a hole to get into the club. Once there, the establishment stocks everything from pilsners to stouts to sours, all backed by a barrage of old-school punk rekkids on the jukebox.
The East Village boasts the perennial classic speakeasy P.D.T. (short for Please Don’t Tell), which is a definite forerunner to the crafted cocktail movement. Original owner and mixologist Jim Meehan was American Bartender of the Year several times, though he recently moved to Portland. (P.D.T. remains.) Essentially the annex to the hot dog eatery Crif Dogs, imbibers enter the speakeasy by making a call to the host, utilizing a turn-of-the-century telephone booth located inside to gain entrance. Although somewhat pricey, it’s probably the peak of alt-cabaret, in terms of style.
Apothéke is a hidden bar in Chinatown with an opium den feel. The only way you’ll find this place is by word of mouth or from researching the web. The lounge is dimly lit and the bar is in the back of the room, where libations are served in the form of “prescriptions.” Apothéke has also become a primo venue for the decadent side of retro-jazz and steampunk music.
Back in the West Village, there is a door that leads to a fantastic subterranean lounge called Little Branch (22 Seventh Ave.). From the creators of another famous speakeasy, Milk & Honey, L.B. is the least pretentious of modern speakeasies, serving potent libations in the intimacy of low ceilings, backed by a steamy cabaret trio.
the deli Spring 2015
Photo: Aude Adrien
The Back Room Bar
Finally, for those inclined to the real thing, the Back Room Bar, on the Lower East Side, is one of two original speakeasies still operating since the days of Prohibition. You enter by going through a metal grate that reads “Lower East Side Toy Company,” down a back alley and up scary metal stairs. Once inside, you’ll feel you’ve been transported to an upscale ‘20s parlor. Cocktails are served in teacups for further discretion. What’s more, the venue boasts an even more discreet space hidden behind a false bookcase.
Websites: dsimone.com, youtube.com/user/DsimoneRocks,soundcloud.com/dsimonemusic, facebook.com/dsimoneband Band Members: Charles D’Simone (lead singer/songwriter/piano), Michael Smith (drums), Joe Belle (guitars), Freddy Tecuanhuey (bass)
How would you describe your music? We play a modern brand of Rock and Roll that mixes the sound of British piano rock with American alternative rock. The vocals carry a melodic approach that never really touches that classic rock-blues vibe you often find in rock, but have more of an 80s synth-pop or classic-pop feel. Double-coil guitars, four different kinds of Marshall Guitar amps, and precise, complex drum rhythms, give the sound a raw, harder rock edge, but the piano pulls it back from going too far over the rock ledge, so we end up with a nice balance of rock and pop that we feel has it’s own distinct sound. What is your latest project? We are working on new material for a full-length album that is being partially recorded at The Music Building. We’ve released the first five songs and are about to start tracking new material. Our goal is to release the complete record this fall. What has been the biggest influence on you musically? Charles: As a kid growing up and listening to music, Elton John and Phil Collins has a tremendous impact on me. Now I listen to everything from 50s country to modern electronic and feel like the music I’m writing today is not influenced by any one genre or artist. What is your favorite Music Building memory? Charles: The first time I walked into the music building to play with Michael Smith. I stepped into the room and I was like, “Yeah! This is home!” How often do you play live? Ideally, we play out in New York about once every two months. Right now because we are trying to get ready to record, we’re playing a little less, but we do have a show booked for Friday, June 26th at The Bitter End.
Websites: www.Jindaimusic.com Band Members: Jindai (singer)
How would you define your musical style? I would describe my music as indie/alternative and lyrics- heavy. In terms of genre, it is an amalgam of electronic, r&b, and folk. If you could share the stage with any band or musician, who would it be? if I could share the stage with anyone it would be Bjork. Could you describe what success would look like for you? Success to me would look like being stopped on the street by a complete stranger who tells me that my music made them feel relevant, made them sit down and think about something, or made them celebrate being weird. What is the single most important thing to you about your music or career? the single most important thing to me about my music is that it be genuine. My music is a form of communication and, as such, derives much of its value from the ability to connect with others in a meaningful way. Meaningful connections happen when the conversation starts from an open, honest, fearless place. I therefore MUST create from that place.
The above artists rehearse in The Music Building in Midtown Manhattan. The building has 69 monthly rehearsal studios and has been tenanted by the likes of Madonna, The Strokes, Billy Idol, and many more. Check out our available rentals at WWW.MUSICBUILDING.COM and use the promo password DELI112014 to get $100.00 off of your first month when signing a new lease.
Best of NYC 2015 | Feature
#1 Photo by Paul Storey
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on the front:
porches By Ben Apatoff
Aaron Maine is shy. That is, he’s quiet, withdrawn, quirky. Some might call it “mysterioso.” There’s no denying, however, he’s become one of indie rock’s names in Brooklyn. As the face of NYC band Porches, Maine turned up on the scene in early 2011 with the stunningly mature EP, Summer of Ten, which his group’s Bandcamp page claims was “written in the basement in december 2010... released 26 January 2011.” They’ve since released three more EPs, a full-length album, and are putting the finishing touches on a sophomore LP. Recently, Porches held a free show at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg, a venue they’ve played dozens of times over the past few years. At this point, the gig feels as routine as the Apollo 17 moon landing of 1972, where, after five successful trips, U.S. astronauts are video’d hopping around and hitting golf balls across the lunar surface. Surrounded by his four bandmates, Maine sports a red Nike hat and black sweatshirt with a white collar sticking out from underneath, looking somewhat like a child trying to make a clergy shirt out of thrift store items. He stands center stage and rarely moves for most of the show. (He will occasionally shift one leg up in a triangular pose that resembles a flamingo, or perhaps Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.) The blinking, headlight fixtures behind Maine and co. are a staple of Baby’s All Right, though, as Porches have built so much of their following from this stage, the lights seem as much theirs as the venue’s.
account for the Pinkerton-esque storytelling of “Headsgiving” and the persistent Rivers Cuomo-isms in Maine’s vocal stylings.) He’s hesitant to elaborate on other influences, citing “everything.” After some prodding he recalls a love for the Strokes’ increasingly canonized Is This It. “When I heard them for the first time, I was like, ‘I need to have a band and be as cool as these guys.’” Porches, says Maine, began more modestly. “I started it alone,” he says flatly. Kevin Farrant (guitar) and Seiya Jewell (keyboards) came on-board first, then drummer Cameron Wisch joined when he and Maine met in college a few years back. Frankie Cosmos, the latest addition, took up bass duties in Porches after she and Maine started dating. “It made sense,” he shrugs. As such, it’s hard to resist labeling last year’s Slow Dance in the Cosmos a commemoration of their relationship. (The album’s characters Franklin and Ronnie Mystery navigate the trenches of casual sex, psych meds, dive bars, and morality v. religion.) “There were like five different versions of the band,” Maine says, admitting earlier iterations as Aaron Maine and the Reilly Brothers, which eventually became Spaceghost Cowboys. This current Porches, says Maine, is his favorite. It is also the version that has generated the biggest buzz. Yet if the new chemistry has inspired Maine to be more confiding in his songs, he remains elusive as ever offstage.
Access was granted to fans who were quick enough to nab passes through Ticketfly. Much of the audience is clearly versed in Porches’ catalogue, giving extra applause to “Forgive,” a bouncy neo-synthpop duet between Maine and Greta Kline (aka Frankie Cosmos) that has already massed over a million streams on Spotify.
He tells me that “Headsgiving” (from Slow Dance) is about “Hanging out at the mall.” Ronald Paris, the nom de plume of his latest EP, is simply “a friend of mine.” He answers emails sporadically. Not impervious to the press, he doesn’t exactly lap it up either. In the end, it’s difficult to know where the genuine anti-establishment ends and the alternative posturing begins.
Another fan favorite is “Headsgiving,” a more classic indie tune with an unforgettable opening verse: “I give you head/Before you head/To Therapy.” Notwithstanding the opening lyric, there’s nothing brash about this song, which features Porches’ most beautiful and evocative melody to date.
But maybe that elusiveness is what separates Aaron Maine, Ronald Paris, and Porches from their peers. In an age where anyone with a computer can find out that Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton were the same person, Maine is preserving the lost art of not knowing—of raising questions and deflecting overexposure by not giving the answers we expect from him. Some of us will look for those answers in his music; others will just be turned off.
Currently unemployed, Maine was raised in Pleasantville, New York (yes, it exists). He made the pilgrimage to New York City in 2011 after his mother sold the house they were both living in. “It’s the best place in the world,” says Maine of NYC, his monotonous tone leaving little room for doubt. Maine claims to have spent much of his youth skateboarding, and like many suburban Americans reaching adolescence in the 1990s, he was taken with mainstream alt-rock. (“I really liked Weezer a lot,” Maine explains, which may
After the Baby’s All Right show, I ask an unusually-energized Maine how he and Porches manage to stand out in Brooklyn’s overflowing music scene. “We are the best,” Maine responds with a signature coolness. Then, sensing my surprise at this outward show of confidence, he brushes it off, winks, and concludes: “JK. I dunno.” d
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Best of NYC 2015
Photo: Kenneth Bachor
A grotty sense of chaos embellishes much of Bury Me at Makeout Creek, the sophomore LP by singer/songwriter Mitski. “Embedded” might better describe these ten songs and their particular relationship to the present. On “Drunk Walk Home,” Mitski takes the Lena Dunham op-ed style into music, with generational lines like, “I will retire to the Salton Sea/At the age of twenty-three.” The ‘I’m-rubber-you’reglue’ screeds continue on “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” where the artist sounds like a young Joan Baez inhabited by the self-lacerating humor of Amy Schumer. Elsewhere, Mitski is empowered by confession, her fears and desires speaking for others. The guitar-throttling “Townie” brings riot grrl guitar thrash together with an old-school elliptic folk style. The unification is incongruous and ghostly—something new (to me, anyway) in the alt-folk genre. But then this entire affair bursts with inspiration. (Brian Chidester)
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Photo: Dana (Distortion) Yavin
Beverly started as a collaboration between Frankie Rose and Drew Citron; the pair worked together on debut album Careers, which sounds like a hybrid of cool bands from the ‘90s. The spirit of the Breeders inhabits each track (Drew Citron’s luscious alto is particularly reminiscent of Kim Deal), though their wall of guitars and dreamy melodies also bring to mind shoegaze pioneers like Lush and Pale Saints. Following Rose’s departure (to focus on her solo career), Beverly became a fourpiece, then progressively shrunk to its current duo status, with Citron and drummer Scott Rosenthal mounting an extensive tour of North America (with the Drums) in 2014. (paolo de gregorio)
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Best of NYC 2015
Soft Serve, the debut EP from NYC power-pop quartet Charly Bliss, pairs the raggedy-yet-radiant vocals of Eva Grace Hendricks to stinging distortion and adorable catchiness. A captivating melody on first single “Love Me” has the potential to open up oceans of happiness. What else can you ask from pop? Well, thanks to a super-fun live show, the band has now filled their calendars with a bevy of official and DIY (all ages) shows. Plus, after two solid EPs and a single released between 2013 and 2014, their debut album is promised this year. (Michael Haskoor)
#4 great caesar
True to their namesake, Great Caesar is not small. The Brooklyn-via-Connecticut sextet oozes variety on its self-titled EP. Don’t believe me? Just check out the second half of “Bury Me,” where Archie Schepp-style saxophones swirl madly, fading in and out of an initially somber track with total whimsy. Elsewhere, the combo’s ruggedly hyperactive blend tingles with excitement, as on the Decemberists-esque “Don’t Ask Me,” which soars to desperately romantic heights. On their latest—the horn-roofed relationship tale “Sharks”—Great Caesar turn seriously warm and deliberately loose, yielding the perfect expression of thinking-man’s fun. (Zachary Weg)
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Photo: Eric White
Brooklyn-based songwriter and electronic producer Valerie Teicher is originally from Buenos Aires. She’s best known today as Tei Shi and has been quietly pushing the dream-pop envelop into deeper fantasias since her 2013 debut EP Saudade. Featuring otherworldly vocals that recall, at times, Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, Tei Shi’s liquid style has been likened to an underwater diving experience. Minimalist electro arrangements tastefully complement the vocals, which permanently sway between ambient/acappella experimentation and pure pop belting. Hear Shi’s “Can’t Be Sure,” from her sophomore EP, Verde, or the breakout single “Bassically,” for evidence. (Paolo De Gregorio)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Readers Poll Winner
The Deli’s Readers Poll influences the overall charts as seen on page 2. These also include the points each artist gathers from industry jurors and Deli writers, as well.
Jeremy & the Harlequins The rebellious sneer of yesteryear resounds in Jeremy and the Harlequins’ new album American Dreamer. Recurrent nods to American dancehall and beach-rock ballads showcase Jeremy Fury’s zero-cool vocals to ghostly effect. First single, “You’re My Halo,” is a cinematic rocker crossing the soul of Eddie and the Cruisers with the sheen of the Wonders. “Cam Girl” returns the tribal beat of “Let’s Go” to its rockabilly roots. The Harlequins played The Deli’s show at the 2014 CBGB Fest and more recently we chatted up the band’s mercurial leader to see where they’ve been since the fall. Below are the results. First off, where does your vintage rock ‘n’ roll sound come from? Everyone in the band either grew up in New York or Ohio, and we were all raised on a steady diet of Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbison. Also, the world today is so fleeting and temporary that the past’s permanence almost seems more real and tangible than the reality we’re living in. You and guitarist Craig Bonich were originally in a band together called Romans. Can you describe the transition from Romans to Harlequins? Some are the same songs, just arranged and produced differently. I think this band is more realized. One of the other things that made us into what we are is that we’re kind of a backlash to where modern popular music is at right now. A lot of new music has a very polished and produced sound. The shoegaze/prog/avant-garde thing is big as well. And, a lot of music is made on computers. We are kind of the opposite of all of that: stripped down, three-minute, catchy rock ‘n’ roll tunes.
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How did the rest of the band come together? Stephan, our drummer, and I were working on tunes in Ohio. We asked a friend of ours who happened to be home from tour to play bass. Then we called up our guitarists who were in New York and they came out. Within five days we had ten songs down. Within eight days we had the entire record tracked. How many takes per song? Every track was recorded in no more than two or three takes. Pretty much everything was played live except for some guitar, organ, harmonica, and backing vocal overdubs. I did the vocals for everything in a couple hours. The goal was to keep the raw energy and urgency. We weren’t trying to make it too perfect or overthink it. So you’re vehemently against digitalization? No. I listen to and like a lot of different types of music. I’m not against digitalization or electronically synthesized sound. I just feel like there is a lot of that out right now. We are kind of an alternative to what’s popular. It feels more refreshing and exciting. What’s next for Jeremy and the Harlequins? We have some shows coming up. Also, we’ll be putting out a couple more videos for some unreleased songs and we’re looking to record another album early this year. (JP BASILEO)
Bathroom recordings? Make them sing with professional mixing. www.mattmccorkle.com
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Alt Rock
Formed in Rhode Island, shaped in Boston, and now calling NYC home, Ellis Ashbrook are a roots-rock act that recall the L.A. strain of ‘90s alt-rock. Their fist-raising 2011 LP Meridia saw John Barber and Natalie Lowe sharing leads on what was a remarkably varied affair. The most incongruous, yet welcome, element was its bevy of Grateful Dead-like jams. (Emilio Herce)
In today’s rediscovery of West Coast grunge, NYC-by-way-of-Cape Cod combo Highly Suspect marries the heaviness of Seattle’s Soundgarden with the economy of 21st century handmade. Johnny Stevens’ expressive lead vocals deliver lines like “I’ve seen better days/In my youth”—from first single “Lydia”—with a kind of rueful angst that matches his band’s power-trio interplay perfectly. (Paolo De Gregorio)
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Brooklyn’s Animal Years recently unleashed the anthemic Sun Will Rise album into the ferment of an already-variegated roots scene. Its passion immediately stood out, especially for leader Mike McFadden, whose heartfelt vocal delivery on “Let Go of Your Head” stands as the high point of an album filled with them. (Zachary Weg)
Aussie alt-rockers Boroko relocated to NYC in 2011, continuing their sonic reductionism of ‘70s classic rock for American indie audiences. Frontman Tim Fontaine sounds sensual and laconic, like his provincial forebear Michael Hutchence (of INXS). Augmented by soulful backing vocals and tight band interplay, the act’s much-anticipated sophomore effort, Western Child, drops this spring. (Michael Haskoor)
Formed in 2013, NYC’s Circus Life mix ‘80s-style hair metal with the hard-rock side of ‘90s grunge. (Frontman Tommy Zamp sounds eerily close to Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley.) “Dose,” from their debut LP Little Secrets, is especially epic, while cuts like “Jet Black Leather and Lace” are more garage-punk, with arpeggiated, Hives-like guitar-bass-drum interplay. (Michael Haskoor)
Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Alex Covo
Offering a new take on the loud/quiet/loud sound of the alternative ‘90s, Slothrust’s 2013 LP Of Course You Do has been the little sleeper that could. By 2014, they gained momentum, having won fans over with each subsequent club date. The working-man ethic was rewarded with a tour supporting Cynbals Eat Guitars and six shows at this year’s SXSW. (paolo de gregorio)
Photo: Josh Goleman
Best of NYC 2015 I Avant Indie
Brooklyn’s Celestial Shore unleashed Enter the Ghost late last year. Its ‘90s-inspired hooks evoke a healthy mix of Pixies-esque structure (bold melodies, ghostly vocal refrains), which, for the song “Gloria,” meant pairing the baseline of “Debaser” with the tranquility of “Here Comes Your Man.” The results are never less than sumptuous. (Leora Mandel)
NYC trio Palberta treat music like a playground jungle gym. “Beach,” the lead cut off their Shitheads in the Ditch LP (with its Butthole Surfers-style cover art), is riot grrl meets They Might Be Giants. “All the Way” transforms Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” into a lo-fi, bubblegum ditty that suggests Britney Spears and her ilk may’ve just been a bad dream all along. (Leora Mandel) Enter the Ghost
PC Worship’s hostility to categorization has led to a branding of themselves “a band, a solo project & collective of musicians [...] aesthetically uncommitted and exploratory.” And while almost every band on the planet has delusions of being that free, this one actually pulls it off. What to expect then? Sonic dissonance, ala Throbbing Gristle or Olivia Tremor Control, albeit with soaring, guttural choruses that evoke, oddly, ‘90s Dandy Warhols anthems. (Paolo De Gregorio)
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big neck police
Holy distortion pedal! Big Neck Police have descended onto NYC’s noise-punk scene (should there be such a thing) bearing metallic audible treats. Their latest EP—split with fellow NY-band Dog—is the sound of a math class geek turned musician, who thinks this is how you get girls, but soon realizes it’s way more fun to assault the world, which is mostly full of nimrods and jerks. (Leora Mandel)
If free-jazz guru Sun Ra had written with nunew-wavers the Dirty Projectors, it might come out sounding like Brooklyn’s Throw Vision. The quartet explore new spaces in sound on their 2015 single, “Were it Will,” whose cool vocals and glitterly synths dominate one ear, while darker guitar licks and jazz drums gradually destroy what’s left of the chastened liberal imagination. (Leora Mandel)
Active since the late aughts, indie collective Ava Luna precipitated NYC’s soul revival of the 2010s. From that hub of DIY creativity that is Bushwick’s Silent Barn, the band’s fourth LP, Infinite House, continues their homage to variety and experimentation. Atonal guitars undulate behind doo-wop harmonies to form an audio puzzle so mesmerizingly inconceivable that it borders on the sublime. With five uncompromising albums and a Deli cover of under its belt, Ava Luna has become an absolute pillar of the Brooklyn underground. The band’s drummer Julien Fader recently sat down to answer a few questions. What’s the songwriting/arranging process like for Ava Luna? For our most recent album, we decamped to a house in Mississippi for a few weeks, set up recording gear and essentially waited for moments to occur. We’d keep the “tape” rolling all the time, then grab what we liked and flesh it out into fuller arrangements. We have three lead vocalists... any of them can hear a moment and decide to start writing over it. I believe this is the first time you work with David Fridmann (of Flaming Lips fame). Dave took the tracks we recorded out of the realm of the physical. There’s an otherworldliness to his mix. What equipment do you find particularly inspiring when recording at the Silent Barn? We love to run drums, and sometimes guitars and vocals, through an old Heil HM88 mixer. It really blows sounds out in an incredibly pleasing way. It’s all over everything we record. Do you guys use guitar pedals to get a specific sound? It’s not exactly a retro point of pride or anything, but we use very few pedals in our band. I think Carlos has one pedal; it’s built by our friend Jared who runs a pedal company called L0/rez. The pedal is called the Cement Lunch [ed. a FET boost with a soft/hard toggle switch and a three band active EQ]
and is actually named after an old Ava Luna song! The sound is also based on Carlos’ guitar sound, so it’s pretty meta. He loves it though, it adds a really pleasing, slight overdrive. Nothing extreme, although some of the other Lo Rez pedals are a little more heavy handed! Ethan [Bassford] has a Sansamp preamp pedal that he loves. Becca [Kauffman] has one of those Freeze pedals that’s essential to a couple of tunes. Has a piece of gear alone ever inspired a song? Our song “Black Dog” was written around the sound of cell phone interference broadcasting through a guitar amp. It was particularly eerie sounding that day. What keeps you guys inspired? Playing music is a release... it’s important for kids to have that. We run a music school out of our studio for these kids from Brownsville and East New York, and we get to see them have that joy of playing music. It’s amazing. (paolo de gregorio)
Ava Luna’s Gear
L0/rez Cement Lunch
Full interview on Delicious-Audio.com
HEIL HM88 Mixer
the deli Spring 2015
Photo: Jacob Wayler
Best of NYC 2015 I Avant Pop
Adrian Galvin’s folk sensibilities and Luca Buccellati’s electronic production give Yellerkin its succinct hybrid sound. Cut in the duo’s Bushwick bedrooms, tracks like “Solar Laws” and “Tomboy” feel rootsy and robotic, while the incongruity of new single “Tools” is nothing less than a rumination on the inadequacy of human beings— even more surprising for its gaiety. (Dean Van Nguyen)
From debut track “Octahate”—which gathered over over three million plays on Soundcloud—to the ethereal “Promises,” Ryn Weaver possesses that perfect balance of catchiness, lyricism and edge—the latter at least in part due to contributions from Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos. We’re happy to report Weaver delivers live too. (paolo de gregorio)
Brooklyn’s Chargaux takes its moniker from a fusion of the act’s two members: Charly and Margaux. Dual violins (plucked or bowed) are front and center, though soulful vocals, sparse electronic programming, and raga-like textures—exemplified on their debut single “I’m So Pretty”—make this act one of the most difficult to categorize. (We still try!) (Paolo De Gregorio)
the deli Spring 2015
Modern Rivals’ debut LP, Cemetery Dares, modernizes the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds in both pathos and joy, if not quite yet proportion. The summery pedigree works especially well on cuts like “The Dead Leaves (Danse Macabre Midnight),” which wistfully removes the sting from memory and the past. (Zachary Weg)
Photo: Sasha Arutyunova
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Adam Schatz, Brooklyn-based lead singer/ songwriter of Landlady, is nothing if not ecumenical. His band’s new LP, Upright Behavior, pulls influence from everyone from Sly and the Family Stone to the Pixies. That is to say, the album offers uplifting instrumentation, huge choruses, and the frontman’s soulful but booming vocals at every turn. (Dean Van Nguyen)
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the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Electronic
Electro-pop trio Little Daylight—led by Nikki Taylor’s Bananaramaesque vocals—belongs to the growing ranks of Brooklyn femalefronted acts who boast a single-gone-viral on the web. (Theirs is 2013’s “Overdose”). Unlike many of their peers, however, this trio has a solid live show, which is probably why they signed to Capitol Records and spent 2014 touring extensively. A radio-friendly debut album, Hello Memory, came out last year and was entirely self-produced—another rarity for an emerging act on a major label. Each member contributed to the songwriting and production departments, as well. Is that enough to say DIY has gone major? (paolo de gregorio)
Mysterious Brooklyn duo GRUMBY introduce the casual listener to myriad aural developments and tasteful textures. The most striking of their recent tracks is the James Ferraroesque sound-collage “Sultana Melek,” which is both dirty and outrageously optimistic. Elsewhere, “Yoshi’s Penthouse” sounds like an exercise in nu-electro-lounge, suggesting a near-future where you and your grandparents share the same all-purpose dancefloor. (Paolo De Gregorio)
the deli Spring 2015
Billing itself as “space-pop,” the Landing is the brainchild of Brooklyn artist Jon Bell, who took the act to #1 on Hypem’s charts twice last year. A spring 2015 single—“Then Comes the Wonder”—is hitched somewhere between the immaculate synthpop of Air (the French Band) and minimalist UK act, the xx. The Landing lifts-off at The Deli’s B.E.A.F. Fest June 13th. (Mike Levine) Hello Memory
Teen Commandments are NYC’s most faithful current adherents of the ‘80s synthpop sound. Too bad videos no longer kill the radio star, for this band’s “Secret Lives of Voyeurs” could surely slay any unstylish classic rocker within earshot. Alas, lyrics like “Listen as I exaggerate” channel Marcel Proust’s notion that artworks create their creators. (Brian Chidester)
NYC/SUNY bit-pop band Crying plays cute music that won’t make you puke. It’s Princess Peach buffed up in roller derby gear; it’s the Lemuria/Nintendo crossover we secretly crave. Their latest (Second Wind) is fun to the nines, with glittery angst to boot. Lyrics like “Karaoke’s ready/Bring her down” means that everyone’s on the guestlist. (Leora Mandel)
Fronted by Gossip Girl actor Penn Badgley, MOTHXR’s sound is dark, percussive, and soulful, channeling both Joy Division and, to a lesser extent, Fleetwood Mac (from whom they lift a few melodic ideas). The act lives single-to-single, having released four of ‘em in 2014, with “Easy” being the jazziest and least brooding. (paolo de gregorio)
NYC’s VÉRITÉ boasts the distinct voice of Sara Bareilles, who skirts the line between mainstream pop and the cutting edge, especially on her haunted new single “Colors.” Underground favorite “Strange Enough,” with its Depeche Mode-esque title, depicts an unstable relationship via dizzying poetry and stylish synthetic production. (Robert Frezza)
Emerging in 2012 as a prominent member of BK’s experimental electronic label/collective, White Material, producer/deejay Galcher Lustwerk specializes in trance-like mixes of ambient and house music. On this year’s sleeper, “In the Place,” he sings/raps in a smoky voice that is nevertheless smooth as silk. (Paolo de gregorio)
“Just What I Needed,” the new single by NYC’s Wonderful Humans, evokes East Village era Madonna (not to mention bulwark ‘80s band the Cars). Yet a practical approach to love, in lyrics like, “I wanted more/But I think you got it/Now that I know you’re/Just what I wanted,” is a cynical reboot worthy of the Girls epoch. (paolo de gregorio)
Kiss Slash Crooked Smile
Yula Beeri, of NYC’s Kiss Slash Crooked Smile, has a singing style that bears more than a passing likeness to Joanna Newsom. A recent video for “Ethereal Dance” found the band moving closer to the mysticism of Sweden’s iamwhoiamwhoami. Alas, Kiss Slash sounds best when matching disco/ska beats to menacing darkwave undertones. (Dave Cromwell)
In 2014, Bosco—a recent NYC transplant from Atlanta—released a series of wellreceived singles that marry breathy, soulful vocals to edgy electronic experimentation. Normally outside soul music’s vocabulary (at least since the late ‘80s), the results range from futuristic party tunes (“Names”) to hypnotic, abstract R&B ballads like “Slippin’.” (PAOLO DE GREGORIO)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Indie Pop
Fronted by three eclectic Rauch-Sasseen sisters, Brooklyn/New Jersey band Hey Anna bring unabashed ear candy to the NYC scene. Sporting God Help the Girl-like vocals, quirky synths, and delicious lyrics, singles like “By the Bay” remind that life’s many pleasures are still small and accessible. New EP planned for 2015. (Jillian Dooley)
Erin Fein, of Psychic Twin, moved to Brooklyn following the release of her S/T debut in 2011 and quickly unleashed a pair of quality singles: “The Deepest Part” and “Strangers.” Recent guest appearances with outside bands has only solidified Fein’s reputation as a centrifuge of emotional depth and created heavy anticipation for Psychic Twin’s next move. (JP Basileo)
the deli Spring 2015
Bonsai’s self-titled debut EP is a dreamy altfolk gem. Opener “Bonsai Trees”—the most accomplished track on the record—showcases the trio’s ability to mix traditional Americana with inventive percussion and edgy guitars. Simone Stevens’ intimate vocals are really the glue, however, giving this small, beautiful record the power to awaken emotions that make people closer. Listen with friends. (paolo de gregorio)
Crooning since ‘09, Braeves frontman Ryan Colt Levy lays the foundation for Long Island’s best (and only?) soul-indie act. Their onerouslyrendered EP, Drifting by Design, was produced by Minuteman Mike Watts, who also assisted As Tall As Lions recently too. Drifting rides a similar soft beat (boy!) that that let’s you, like Dobie Gray, drift away. (Michael Haskoor)
Toons’ debut album is broody, stoner, couchcrashing fun—the audio equivalent of a Kevin Smith movie. They have some important questions to ask, however, like: “I wonder where did all these cows comes from?” (Hmm.) Elsewhere, it’s hard to tell whether lines like “I brought all these dollars for your panties tonight” are boastful or self-loathing. Guess it doesn’t matter, does it? (Leora Mandel)
The downer side of pop is aphoristic to Brooklyn’s Belle Mare. Recent single, “Cicada,” is wrought with such solemnity that it makes their Boat of the Fragile Mind EP (2013) sound like bubblegum. Quiet, steady guitars glide over soft piano tones, forming a foundation readymade for Amelia Bushell’s hushed vocals and ever-widening spectrum of emotion. (JP Basileo)
Backed by the always-inventive Neon Gold label, Brooklyn trio Wet has charmed the ears of audiences with its sparse, soulful, seductive sound. A self-titled debut EP—released last October—boasts tracks like the pretty “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” and the mournful, midnight ballad “No Lie,” which play minimally, allowing Kelly Zutrau’s vocals front and center. (Dean Van Nguyen)
Brooklyn pop band Canon Logic experienced recent success with their single “Runaway,” which got them a win in the international Unsigned Only’s Music Competition. They list influences such as FUN, Bastille, and Local Natives, describing their latest album WYLD as having “the right formula for mainstream success” with “soaring instrumentals, spirited vocals, happy hand claps, and uplifting lyrics.” (Leora Mandel)
The Cabana Kids
The Cabana Kids’ indie bubblegum single “Just Let Me Know” feels monumental, despite its homespun restraint. It may have been, in fact, such brands of pop cuteness and spangled retro arrangement that led frontman Joseph Lee to describe his group as “what Sonny and Cher might sound like if they were hipsters.” (Sammie Spector)
Coming up with a fun, memorable band name is, in a word, torture. (Been there... failed many times). The 1-800-BAND’s moniker fits perfectly the Brooklyn quartet’s ebullient retropop, reminiscent of the Cars and other groups in vogue when the good old land line still inspired hit songs (think Blondie or Chris Montez). A debut EP drops in April on Almost Ready Records. (paolo de gregorio)
NYC’s LAVACHILD is a collaboration between Nikki Shapiro (of the band Friends) and soulsinger Chantel Marie. Their ethereal single “Want U To” boasts the sophisticated lightness of an impressionist painting and two voices, bold and expressive, the results being a sound that should delight fans of both Enya and Lauryn Hill. (paolo de gregorio)
Renata Zeiguer worked with Deli favorites like Landlady and Vensaire. Now she’s got her own project: Cantina. A ghostly EP (Horizons) was our featured record of the month in August and we’ve been keeping an ear out ever since! Musically, she’s growing like wildflowers—tall and fast, decorated with percussive rattles, fiddles, bird sounds, and fabrics bent into passages for light to travel through. (Leora Mandel)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Indie Pop
Fresh from October showcases at both the CBGB and CMJ fests, Parlour Tricks recently unleashed a new single, “Lovesongs,” which reiterates their sweet harmonies and compelling songcraft. Produced by Emery Dobyns (mastered at Sterling Sound), it emphasizes vocal purity over artificial enhancement. A live show presents similar analog professionalism. The Deli recently sat down with lead singer Lily Cato and bassist Brian Kelsey to discuss the band’s recording process and a new album Broken Hearts/Bones. What comes first: music or lyrics? Lily Cato: Lyrics come to me all the time. Sometimes a bassline, or a chord progression, or a melody—I sing those into my phone if I’m not near a computer or instrument. The luckiest and rarest is when something comes together all at once. I seem to get a lot of good ideas in the shower, which requires jumping out and running, dripping, to find my phone before I forget them. What’s been inspiring you lately? Lily Cato: There’s been a lot of upheaval in my family the last two years. My father died. My nephew was born. My mom had cancer and survived. My boyfriend quit his job of seven years. Big things, one right after the other. It felt medicinal to be able to put the strange thoughts I was having to work... to be able to call them “inspiration.” It gave me a way to keep from drowning. Ironically, most of the music I wrote ended up being super cheerful, positive pop music. Maybe I was writing what I wanted to hear in order to escape a little. I don’t know. But those songs now make up the bulk of the new album. What’s the songwriting/arranging process in the band? Lily Cato: I write everything at home alone with Garageband and a [Blue Mic] Snowball microphone. I’ve never been a comfortable instrumentalist, but I put on a very loud metronome, bang out bass lines on the piano, and fill in with Omnichord or ukulele—instruments that are not and have never been in Parlour Tricks. The three-part vocal harmony is always the crux of every song. No matter how sparse the rest of the ideas might be, the harmonies
the deli Spring 2015
Photo: Shervin Lainez
are concrete. After I send the shitty little recording over to everyone, and Morgane [Moulherat] and DeeDee [Golub] have a chance to learn their parts, we all begin work on the arrangement together. What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? Brian Kelsey: I think maintaining perspective can be difficult, especially in long sessions. It’s easy to forget to take breaks and give your ears and brain a rest. Trusting your instincts and the instincts of everyone in the band always got me through those moments where I couldn’t tell if what we were doing was the coolest thing ever or the worst. We really wanted to stretch into new territory and it sometimes got confusing. But we did a great job of keeping each other grounded while still moving forward. (paolo de gregorio)
Parlour Tricks’ Gear
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the deli Spring 2015
Run the Jewels
Photo: Seher Sikandar
Best of NYC 2015 I Hip-Hop
NYC’s El-P and ATL’s Killer Mike have released two LPs of no-nonsense, knuckle-dusted space-funk together. On LP #2, Mike boasts, “Last album voodoo/Proved that we was fuckin’ brutal/I’m talking crazy/Half past/The clock is cuckoo.” Tackling social issues on tracks like “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and good old bombast elsewhere, the MCs’ mastery of style is unequivocal. (Jason Grimste)
Bed-Stuy native Mike Wilson’s album Fenix taps everything from Broadway musicals to Star Trek references in an effort to capture the big picture of modern urban life. First single, “Red Matter,” gets at the anger and confusion resolutely in lines like, “I hash-tag three sixes and steal police sketches to hire new priests based on police records.” (Jason Grimste)
Ratking has built a sizable underground following in the five boroughs, no small feat when hip-hop continues to be pushed out of clubs by owners happy to defend the status-quo. Combining incredible agility with smooth-like-butter flow and eclectic beats, Ratking boasts one of the sickest live shows around, not to mention a self-supporting label for themselves and their compatriots: Letter Racer. (Jake Saunders)
the deli Spring 2015
Pants Velour MCs Josh Raff, Eli Northrup, and Niki Darling hoist their freak flag with such resplendent snark that it’s hard not to get behind them (pun intended). A new video for “Taxidermist” pops references from Howie Mandel to Handel to Hanson, all while preaching to “stuff that beaver - taxidermist.” The beat is perfect for grinding hips or teeth too. Your call. (Jason Grimste)
Your Old Droog
Photo: Seher Sikandar
Run the Jewels 2
Coney Island rapper Your Old Droog is of decidedly retro vintage. Indeed, his gangsta style and graveley voice are the perfect foil for the sardonic wordplay of tracks like “Porno for Pyros,” where Droog boasts, “Back in the line of fire/Sayin my style’s dated is like sayin’ wine has expired.” Cheers to that. (Jason Grimste)
Best of NYC 2015 I Other
Morning Sun and The Essentials
Feeling detached? Seven-piece reggae outfit Morning Sun reconnects you to your roots! Hailing from Upstate New York and St. Lucia, they capture city living in “Highrises,” where people live “on top of people living on top of people.” The Essentials are a young band, but they channel the wisdom of the ages. Stop that train. (We want on!) (Jason Grimste)
making the world a better sounding place.
Pete Ayres Band
On “Ordinary Friend,” Ayres belts, “I forgot who I am/And if I choose to be what I am not/What am I then?” Identity crises are very much a part of the puzzle artists seek to reconstruct using language. Ayres clots his with heavy soul influences from Stevie to Otis in search of answers to life’s bigger questions. (Jason Grimste)
Every Flavor Weather Machine
Eight piece collective Every Flavor Weather Machine hails from Beantown, but these days call NYC home. The group’s signature sound comprises synths, brass, and plenty of emceeing about late nights, driving, girls, and cheap wine. It adds up to a street-corner bull session, with hints of early Lou Reed. In other words: perfect, funky days. (Jason Grimste)
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the deli Spring 2015
Photo: Maverick Inman
Best of NYC 2015 I Indie + Psych
Brooklyn indie quartet Heeney is named after Sean Heaney, founder of the East W-Burg DIY venue Shea Stadium. A February 2015 single, appropriately titled “Brooklyn Pop,” continued their reputation as the borough’s veritable house band, though all good things must eventually pass, and so it is with Heeny. They played their final show on May 20th. R.I.P. (paolo de gregorio)
NYC indie-rockers Mainland recorded their catchy EP Shiner in Austin, at Public Hi-Fi, the studio of Spoon drummer Jim Eno. Comprised primarily of California natives, Mainland released a cover last summer of Coconut Record’s song “West Coast” that struck a sweet homesickness. Plans for this summer? Mainland says: “Stay tuned.” (Come on!) (Leora Mandel)
the deli Spring 2015
Brooklyn’s buzzworthy trio Sunflower Bean pits brightly-colored psychedelia against brooding vocals, which lets their brief repertoire unfold naturally. All three members strike impressive on-stage poses too, giving Sunflower’s special brand of hippy-punk a welcome dose of sex appeal. (Jake Saunders)
The Fluids’ round, slightly epic rock sound didn’t immediately strike us as original... until Michael O’Donnell’s vocals, with their semi spoken-word style, emerged. The stylistic offspring of Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), O’Donnell seems to need only the most minimal melody to deliver evocative vocal lines. We dig. (The proverbial “We,” that is.) (paolo de gregorio)
Sons of an Illustrious Father
Sons of an Illustrious Father’s newest EP (Sons) talks life, death, and the afterlife with a general anxiety about the state of the world. (Can you blame them?) Though mostly vintage alt-rock, their style pulls from everywhere, including funk and Americana. An LP titled Marty Loser Kingdom Tour sets sail this spring. Saul Williams guests. (Leora Mandel)
Brooklyn-via-North Carolina psych-rock outfit KDH are set to release (as of this printing) a sophomore album: Piedmont Rose. It follows the limited edition 2013 cassette Kill Devil Hill, which blended everything from early Pink Floyd to southern rock, proving their adaptation to NYC’s ever-expansive milieu. (paolo de gregorio)
Photo: Nieto Dickens
ONWE’s odd mix of post-punk and psychpop makes a fine vehicle for David Welles’ vindictive lyrical style. Single “Unpaid Internship”—a mini-hit perpetrated by blogs in summer 2014—mocked the dubious selfconfidence of Brooklyn hipsters. I suppose they had it coming. ONWE released a new eight track LP titled Hyperbole this past January. (paolo de gregorio)
Eastern Hollows’ brand of dreampop, shoegaze, and neo-psych is a modern twist on a genre that has barely collected dust in its twenty odd years of storage. Their NYC-recorded debut (on Club AC30 Records) pairs a Factory Records-style sleeve to druggy New Ordermeets-Spiritualized stompers. May we thus float once more in space. (Dave Cromwell)
Exocomet is a Brooklyn duo whose self-titled debut is washed in psychedelic, post-punk reverb. Though mostly dealing in textures that border on the ambient, Exocomet finds contrast in dense tracks like “Cyclops,” where dissonant guitars match charging parallel rhythms. A lack of detail about this band only adds to the mystique of their very odd record. (Jake Saunders)
Brooklyn’s Icewater writes songs that are spaced-out, anthemic, and optimistic. Not that the band hasn’t seen its share of tragedy. During the recording of their cheekilytitled 2013 LP, Collectors Edition, guitarist and founding member Grant Martin unexpectedly passed away, giving both its buoyant and small moments of sadness an extra layer of depth. The band released a more upbeat two track EP at the end of 2014. (Emilio Herce)
Sly Moth’s self-titled LP features sunny surf guitar/bass interplay and nimble percussive taps. (The Joy Formidable and Waxahatchee spring readily to mind.) Dani Newman’s vocals also fit dreamy grooves that crackle effortlessly, like a Felini actress laughing into an old school telephone. Did you know the band formed from a Craigslist ad? Yeh. One of them love stories. (Leora Mandel)
Brooklyn surfy alt-rock duo Fern Mayo have one 2-song EP, which runs a total of 3:55. Decidedly low-brow, its reverbed twang and unhinged vocals leave much to the imagination. Notably, what these demos might sound like in a professional studio, and what kind of future gunslinger duel Katie Capri’s guitar might soundtrack. (JP Basileo)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Indie + Psych
Few albums are as daring as Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men? So we’re always ecstatic to see new bands reference it, as NYC’s Future Punx have on their I’m So Inspired EP of 2014. Its closer, “See You in the Future,” for instance, doubles down on the keyboard madness, adding teutonic angularity to calland-response vocals, reminiscent of another underrated new-wave act: the Stranglers. We recently asked guitarist Jake Pepper a few questions about his band’s creative process. How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio? About half and half. We start everything at home and ideally end up in the studio. We’re about to go into a studio to record our first LP, but the electronic elements were thoroughly tweaked over the last several months in Jason [Kelly]’s home studio/bedroom. What’s the songwriting/arranging process in the band? We tend to bring in demos, then flesh them out together. Much of our songwriting time revolves around refining the sequenced electronic elements in the interest of giving each song its own identity, while making sure there’s room for us to play live with the sequence. We get together and spend long sessions tweaking our sounds to suit the songs. Often before even bringing them into the rehearsal space. At that point, we’ll play the sequences loud and work with our live instruments to further refine the arrangements.
ics, but we had all generally come from a more traditional “rock” setup. I had had some experience sequencing with Reason and Fruityloops beforehand. Around this time, I purchased a Korg Electribe EMX-1 off of Craigslist. It’s an all-in-one hardware sequencer which one can program drum and synth patterns on and then arrange the patterns in song sequences. It’s an incredibly deep and versatile device. I bought it thinking I’d use it mainly to make demos of my songs for the band, but it ended up becoming a central component of the band, fulfilling the electronic role. Do you guys ever use guitar pedals? As we’ve become more and more interested in dance-oriented music, our songs increasingly demand a restrained rhythm guitar. I use a Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive for pushing leads through, but prefer the bass rather than the guitar version [OD-3], because it has a split EQ knob that provides a lot more potential girth to the tone. (paolo de gregorio)
Future Punx’s Gear
Full interview on Delicious-Audio.com
What are the most challenging aspects of recording? I think in general the most challenging thing is trying to get an idea from one’s head onto tape. Similarly, most challenging to me personally has always been getting a vocal take that I feel satisfied with. It’s a fairly common issue for untrained vocalists. Thanks to my bandmates’ encouragement, I’ve grown a lot within this band and have learned to utilize the things my voice naturally does well. Are there any instruments or musical toys that have lately helped you rediscover the playful side of creating? When we first started the band, we knew we wanted to incorporate electron-
the deli Spring 2015
Korg Electribe EMX
Photo: Cary Whittier
Best of NYC 2015 I Power Pop
Power trio Dead Stars’ latest EP (Slumber) opens with the hooky “Someone Else,” an uptempo, Americana anthem. Later, “Summer Bummer” leans more heavily on the solid backbeat of master stickman Jaye Moore, whose cousin Jeff boasts playful lyrics that echo Joey Ramone’s nonchalance towards negativity—a post-modern take on optimism. (Dave Cromwell)
Brooklyn’s alt-indie project Late Cambrian draw on pop influences from party-rock to synthpop and beyond. Frontman (and chief songwriter) John N. Wlaysewski boasts the vocal energy of Phoenix’s Thomas Mars, without overwhelming his band’s complex, inspiring instrumentals. A celebrated fourth album—made possible by a successful Kickstarter campaign—dropped in November ‘14. (Michael Haskoor)
Rising from the ashes of their previous incarnation as Motive, Dreamers’ first single, “Wolves,” is boy-pursues-girl from a hunter’s point of view. (Its video references noir-ish rural dramas like Twin Peaks and True Blood.) Follow-up single “My Little Match” features more explosive guitar, full power chords, and a chugging rhythm, whose time signature shifts from straight 4/4 to a 1-2-3 waltz. (Dave Cromwell)
Photo: Morgan Edwards
Rocket & The Ghost
Brooklyn pop-rock group Rocket and the Ghost followed a 2013 EP with the fiery new single, “Come in from the Outside” b/w “Albuquerque.” The b-side is mid-tempo balladry, while the a-side delivers the kinetic pulse of Arcade Fire with the ominous energy of Muse, making for one mighty DIY anthem. (Zachary Weg)
Public Access TV
Is it too early for a “new Strokes”? We say no. Anyway, the guys in NYC’s Public Access TV look so young, they were probably toddlers when Is This It came out. The only really important thing here is they can write catchy pop and deliver it with flair. The quartet just released a new EP on Terrible Records and wrapped up a U.S. tour with Palma Violets. (paolo de gregorio)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Punk/Garage
Two Brooklyn bands called Al Gore and the Memorial Gore Four got “Yoko’d” into the new sonic monster, Memorial Gore, which brings to mind more David Cronenberg, less greenhouse gas, and is totally for the best. A 2013 debut (Demos) is warm and hazy garage-rock, whilst more recent releases betray a serious power-pop fetish... and guts. (Leora Mandel)
the deli Spring 2015
Photo: LP McCloy
Photo: Bryan Bruchman
Bluffing is a Brooklyn band whose whirlwind of distortion and muddy vocals come at you from all directions at once. Like NY’s recent locust storm, but more sublime, a bevy of tasty nuggets came on their debut LP, sugar coated pills of wisdom, whose “Dundridge” is the perfect nu-prog title. At a minute-thirty-three, it was anything but. (Mike Levine)
Nu-Brooklyn duo the Winstons (formed in Virginia) are a thrashier version of the lost 1962 garage band 45s sought by cultists the world over. Decidedly homemade, their debut, Turpentine, sizzles with a manic quality, crossing Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ bluesy menace with Cramps-like deformity. Just twelve months in, the Winstons landed hot venues like Rough Trade and Baby’s All Right. (Paolo De Gregorio)
In a rather elegiac sounding Facebook post, the 5-piece, surf-angst band Clouder recently announced guitarist Steve Spinella will be disappearing into that speculated wormhole between Brooklyn and California. This means the band’s future is unclear. In the meantime, a split EP with their buds Pow Wow! should keep further rumor at bay. (Leora Mandel)
Flagland is NYC’s self-described “panic rock” trio. Despite some nihilistic tendencies on their 2014 record, Love Hard, there was still room for a dose of sucrose in songs like “Sugarcube,” which admits: “When I’m feeling black/You take me back/Yeah, my cup is bitter stuff/But you make it sweet.” (Leora Mandel)
Close your eyes whilst listening to NYC poprock quintet Big Huge and you’ll be transported to that ratty old couch in your neighbor’s proletariat garage. You know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. The cushions are sunken-in, the beers are fizzy, warm, and cheap (die craft beer!), and the band sounds upbeat and vigorous. Virile too. [Swoon.] (Leora Mandel)
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Revival
NYC 3-piece STRNGRS recently unleashed a riff-heavy sophomore EP titled Magic Boy. Combining passionate vocals with fierce instrumental solos and harmonica-wailing mayhem, its closer, “Outta My Mind,” gives the Black Keys’ bluesy sexplosion style a run for its money. STRNGRS’ 2013 cover of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” is equally libido-driven. (Michael Haskoor)
Pet-O-Feelia, the debut album from Brooklynvia-Austin rock degenerates Hector’s Pets, is chock full of power chords and harmonized ‘ooh-la-la’’s. Recalling, at times, the retro-y side of ‘70s punk, it’s the husky baritone of lead singer “Wet Pet” that truly stands out. Part Eric Burden, part Everlast, his toper-like personality keeps things masculine and joyful throughout. (JP Basileo)
Jane Lee Hooker
If history is nothing so much as the act of emendation, then NYC’s all-female indieblues combo Jane Lee Hooker has rescued the antique genre from its recent academic trappings. “Wade in the Water,” especially, find throaty frontwoman Dana Danger Athens knocking the dust off in a swift uppercut of raw power. (Michael Haskoor)
Quitty and The Don’ts
the deli Spring 2015
The spirit of 1966 is alive and well on Quitty and the Don’ts’ pair of stunning garage-psych singles: “No Damage Done” and “All of You.” Heavy use of the Farfisa organ recalls the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” and the Animals’ “We Got to Get Out of This Place,” which are complemented by the band’s decidedly retro fashion sense. (Dave Cromwell)
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Carried by the wisdom of a poet and the purity of a child, Belanger’s debut six track EP, After, is an arresting collection of folk balladry. The songwriter (hailing from Burlington, VT) tackles that infamous NYC paralysis in self-analytical lines like: “I haul my feet through tumultuous terrain/To love, or to lose?/I cannot choose/Stuck, on this mountain I made.” (paolo de gregorio)
Queens-based roots veteran Feral Foster has been making music for almost ten years now. His self-titled LP of 2014 is a collection of antique blues, straight-up folk, and crooned ballads that showcase an expressive (and passionate) tenor, noteworthy for the versatility it bridges amongst the genres. (paolo de gregorio)
the deli Spring 2015
Photo: MC Taylor
Best of NYC 2015 I Rootsy
Hiss Golden Messenger
Hiss Golden Messenger began in 2007 as a duo between North Carolina transplant M.C. Taylor and New Yorker Scott Hirsch. Myriad guests over the years—from Mountain Man, to Bon Iver, Small Pond, and Megafaun—have augmented the songs with a variety of disparate influences. Hiss always manage, however, to fall back on its own inimitable blend. (Leora Mandel)
Cricket Tell the Weather
Cricket Tell the Weather is the fiddle-swellin’, banjo-pluckin’, story-relatin’ NYC quintet whose rotating cast of singers leans heavily bluegrass, though not married to any one tradition. First you’re contra dancing between bales of hay, next you’re staring up at the Brooklyn Bridge, feeling ambushed and wondering aloud about the stars in their absence. Just know: We’re all in this together. (Leora Mandel)
Johnnie Lee Jordan
L.I./Manhattan folkster Johnnie Lee Jordan’s catchy new single, “Candy Mountain,” is rooted in many influences uniquely foreign to his hometown. Doesn’t matter. Reverb and slideguitar overlap throughout, culminating in a full-band chorus, which climaxes in the sweet, old-timey saying: “Kiss me and say that it’s for free.” All the best things are. (JP Basileo)
Michael Daves has emerged as a leading light in New York’s bluegrass revival. Growing up in Georgia provided the education. His most recent project, however, was recorded with Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile at Jack White’s Third Man Studio in Nashville. There the duo tackled 16 traditional bluegrass tunes with the intensity of rockers. Clarence White’d be proud. (Dave Cromwell)
Howard is a Brooklyn’s one and only self-described “Folktronica” band. Folding gentle textures of synths, samples, and electric guitars into the sensual tenor of songwriter/producer Howard Feibusch’s vocals has generated some recent acclaim. Active since ‘09, the band’s recent single, “Money Can’t Buy,” gathered more than 2 million plays on Spotify in a matter of weeks. The Deli asked Howard Feibusch a few questions in hopes of stealing his secret. Take us back to the beginning, musically. I learned to play guitar by myself exclusively. When I was in high school I started a band with some kids from the grade older than me. They were cool and smoked cigarettes while I was shy and quiet. I remember the feeling I had when I finally plugged in with a drummer and bass player. It was so cool! Then it began to really come together in college when I formed Orange Television. I was finishing pre-med at the time and even scored well on the entrance exam to med school, but stupidly decided I’d rather pursue music and ditched it. Your recent single “Money Can’t Buy” blew up on Spotify. To what extent has this digital love translated into real world love? It has dramatically increased interest in the band and I hope it serves as a tool to explore the rest of the album. I think every song on Religion [the band’s debut LP] stands on its own merit.
Photo: Shervin Lainez
before and it’s been a ton of fun. It allows me to think about different ways of sequencing audio and is like the ultimate guitar pedal for samples. What piece of equipment you find particularly useful when recording at home? I like the Apogee Duet because I can just keep it on my desk or even go to a cafe and work. I also use my Roland SP 404 SX Sampling Workstation to have fun with ideas and samples. It can also be a great arrangement tool if used as such. What’s a favorite guitar pedal? I love the distortion sound from the ProCo WhiteFace Rat... very ‘90s. The Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy is a great little pedal and I use it more to thicken sounds than a delay. I recently bought a MASF Possessed which makes everything sound glitchy and weird; I’m looking forward to re-amping drums through it. The Empress Superdelay is probably the most expensive pedal I own. I’ve had it for years and it’s a delay pedal’s wet dream. (paolo de gregorio)
Full interview on Delicious-Audio.com
Is there an overall concept to the band’s sound? Or do you just follow your instincts? For the most part I follow my instincts. Sometimes your instincts create its own brand and you start to over-conceptualize and try to make your subsequent music sound like your old instincts. It’s always good to shed expectations in the embryonic stages of writing. Any musical toys that lately made you rediscover that playful side to creating? I’ve been messing around with the Akai MPC 5000. I haven’t used an MPC
Roland SP 404 Sampling Workstation
the deli Spring 2015
Best of NYC 2015 I Songwriters
Under the moniker Frankie Cosmos, NY native Greta Kline released her debut Zentropy in 2014. It remains a beguiling set of minimalist folk-pop, where wry couplets like, “I’m bitter like olives/That’s why you like them and I don’t,” both decry her independence from side-bands Beverly and Porches, and add to their collective impact. (Emilio Herce)
Sidewalk Café regular Viktor Longo usually records sardonic pop under the name Viking. This year he began releasing what he describes as “sci-fi glam-rock” under his own name. Some songs rely on minimal guitar grooves, or pitter-patter piano, while others travel forte by way of synth, distortion, and boldness. (Leora Mandel)
the deli Spring 2015
NYC’s the Prettiots—featuring members of ex-teen band Supercute and the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow—crossed just about every indie critic’s radar last year. Their brand of feminist folk-pop has drawn comparisons to Joan Jett and the Moldy Peaches, while a uke-driven cover of the Misfits’ “Skulls” continues their run of unpredictability. (Sammie Spector)
jack + eliza
Photo: Jacqueline Harriet
Jack + Eliza have been chums since childhood, which goes a long way towards explaining the warmth of their two-way harmonies. The Brooklyn duo’s retro electric guitar interplay is a fine showcase for its male/ female vocal blend, which recalls, at times, the delicacy of late ‘60s Beach Boys balladry. (Brian Chidester)
Jason Howell has a propensity for the sweeping and the colloquial. New album Vital Organs jumps from monotone to jazzy to emo in the span of about four minutes. The voice too is variegated, running sweetly from the Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson to the guttural of Crash Test Dummy Brad Roberts. The 21st century existential crisis, however, is all Howell’s. (Emilio Herce)
When was the last time an upright bass captured your imagination with the same childish wonderment as first love? NYC singer/songwriter Kate Davis may primarily tout herself a bassist, but her musical upbringing and shimmering adult vocals have made recent live shows the stuff of legend. A debut EP is eagerly anticipated, whilst accolades amongst her musician-giant friends continue to build. (JP Basileo)
Best of NYC 2015 I Alt Soul
Besides her beautiful voice, young NYC songwriter Lynette Williams also possesses the homegrown ability to blend soul, pop, and jazz effortlessly. Her debut EP, Songs for Sarah, is a mature first effort. “What Am I Loving You For?” is its most incendiary moment, recalling, at times, both Billie Holiday and Sade, meaning, sad and smooth. (paolo de gregorio)
Local electro/R&B act Blkkathy builds up layers of blissful vocal lines, then clicks them into firm beats with ace production. It’s music made for pulling up old wounds, soothing, and grooving to, exemplified best in bipolar lyrics like, “These are dance songs/So it’s okay to get sexy and cry.” (Leora Mandel)
Hakim’s Where Will We Go, Pt. 1 EP landed him a summer residency at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. The stunning collection includes “I Don’t Know,” which NPR later picked as one of its ‘10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing.’ Deemed a first installment, we’re excited (and a bit impatient!) to see what Hakim has planned for Pt. 2. (Jillian Dooley)
Raised in London and currently based in New York, Oyinda is an emerging Nigerian singer/ songwriter/producer who takes her brand of soul into personal, dark, experimental corners. Single “What Still Remains” features buzzy, distorted synths that battle her impressive vocals for volume, building a mood that defies the genre’s redemptive tendencies. (paolo de gregorio)
Since 2013, Brooklyn’s Z&A has released a full length, an EP, and a single, each boasting their inimitable brand of dark soul music. Amanda Khiri’s vocals are crystal clear, whilst the band’s arrangements veer towards the unexpected (see the futuristic, vocoder-driven “Neon Arches”). Latest single “Crucifix” delivers their darkest lyric to date with, “Don’t ask how I am/I’m halfway dead.” (paolo de gregorio)
Intergalactic Wave’s last EP, Autumn, showed a mastery of southern-style rap, whilst grabbing from pretty much everywhere (glam, funk, hard rock, etc.). It’s no surprise then that songsmith Menes Kadar voices frustration with the sedentary in lines like, “I live my life in the Twilight Zone/Feet up on the Earth/Head up in a Demo Zone.” (Jason Grimste)
the deli Spring 2015
Read about pedals on delicious-audio.com!
Neunaber Seraphim Stereo Shimmer
• Combines wet reverb with the shimmer effect, consisting in a series of overtones that trail along with decaying reverb. (The two effects play together or activate separately.) • Neunaber’s free Pedal Customizer software allows you to mod the pedal and even transform it in any other stereo Neunaber pedal!
Whirlpool The Bomb
• Designed to tickle the front-end of your tube amp, especially good with single-coils, it brings out little nuances and upperrange harmonic distortions, while leaving the low-end intact. • Works well at the beginning of a chain (as an “always-on” overdrive), or at the end of a long signal path to bring out the upper frequencies.
DLS Effects Reckless Driver
• Features an overdrive/distortion pedal with two channels: Normal and Boost, plus Internal Pot adjustments for input stage gain and distortion input. • Very wide and dynamic bass and treble controls, along with an attack switch that subtly changes the tone’s edge and brightness.
Red Panda Lab Raster
• Features digital delay with a pitch shifter integrated into the feedback loop and knob responses carefully tuned for exploration of self-oscillation and feedback. • Also delivers a wide range of sounds including harmonized delays, reverse delays, chorus, arpeggios, and infinite descents.
the deli's synths corner
Future Retro Zillion Generative Step Sequencer Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box Enclosure • Fully patchable stompbox enclosure, available as an empty eurorack case, or in a number of pre-configured systems. • Dual, assignable expression pedal inputs to control any voltage controllable parameter, plus dual, assignable A/B footswitches expand signal routing options.
the deli Spring 2015
• A Generative Step Sequencer that creates melodies according to the parameters you set, its algorithms are based on a 1970s gadget called the Triadex Muse. • A series of hot keys allow you to edit length, pitch, velocity, loop points, and other parameters.
Patchblocks • Modular synth units attach to one another, while each block can be programmed to do what you want through a patching interface: i.e. they can be synths, drum machines, sequencers, effects, etc. • The more blocks you buy, the more flexible your synth becomes.
Rare Waves LITE2SOUND • A portable sensing device that extracts audio from ambient light. • It works best at night, in technology-saturated spaces: metro commute, arcade, highway, high street.
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Published on May 24, 2015
Annual 'Best of NYC' issue. Featuring indie-rock darlings Porches on the cover. Also: reviews of 100+ emerging artists based in the Big Appl...