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The Giraffes: Prime Motivator (Crustacean)
If you somehow haven’t found your way to a Giraffes show, make the time. This Brooklyn band is all about rock ’n’ roll like it should be: loud, unruly, drunk, and heart-attack-inducing (literally). And this new album shows them fully in control of their seamy, riff-laden ways. Prime Motivator is a dirty, down-in-the-gutter record. While the CD (its title loosely inspired by the ongoing cardiac saga of the band’s singer, and featuring songs like “Allergic to Magnets,” “Sickness,” and “Medicaid Benefit Applique”) might not be as raw as their first, it’s still chock-full of bad-boy, bass-crunching, hide-your-daughter swagger. Their surf-metal style has matured (is that an insult for a band like this?) into a confident, unapologetic sound that offers up wicked guitar licks, heavy bass, pounding drums, and vocals from a sleazy demon. The Giraffes continue to put out music that aims to save the rotten, beleaguered heart of rock ’n’ roll; Prime Motivator acts as a defibrillator to today’s stagnant indie-gone-mainstream scene.
The End of the World: French Exit (Pretty Activity)
This Brooklyn-based band reminds me a lot of the French Kicks (specifically their Trial of the Century album). However, French Exit left me wanting more from a band with such an apocalyptic-sounding name—and such an uneventful album. To be honest, I got bored, and the singer’s raspy croon got old pretty quickly. The band is also a bit schizophrenic on French Exit (a phrase meaning “leaving without saying goodbye,” which is kind of how you feel after listening to this album), veering from the flowing French Kicks style to downright plodding songs without a semblance of melody. If this is how the end times are going to sound, please don’t wake me.
Dead Meadow: Old Growth (Matador)
If you’re looking for a nice, slow-burning stoner-rock album, Old Growth should keep your buzz going. Heavy fuzz guitars coupled with a nice drone are the hallmarks here. Dead Meadow are adept at bluesy psychedelic-tinged rock that doesn’t go anywhere fast, yet follows the jam-band blueprint of slowly building before your eyes (and ears) into a swirling, rhythmic monster. There’s not much posturing here, and the lead singer’s vocals come across mumbled and muttered half the time, but that just adds to their overall aesthetic. Dead Meadow doesn’t make uplifting music (in fact, it’s got a dark, simmering undertone to it), but you probably could have guessed that from both their band and album name—though they add in a few low-fi “gentler” numbers and a song or two with a beat that provide nice counterbalance. There’s no doubt that Old Growth is a powerful record, and will easily help you while away many a Saturday afternoon.
Pigeon Detectives: This Is an Emergency EP (Dance to the Radio)
First off, their name is absolutely horrendous. But there’s more trouble here than that. This U.K. band comes out swinging with synth, persistent beats, and catchy choruses that musically seem to have no connection to the rest of the song: Welcome to Britpop at its best/worst. I’ve heard a spate of bands in recent years looking to be the next Killers, riding that wave of boring keyboard-laden songs with catchy singalong choruses. While the originals have cemented their footnote in musical history, the imitators that follow (including this band) don’t bring anything new or remotely interesting to the table. If you’ve heard one dance-rock chorus, you’ve heard them all.
Monade: Monstre Comic (Too Pure)
This French band emphasizes the joys of veering away from traditional rock. The band’s name comes from a psychological term to describe the infant brain before it splinters into ego, super ego, and id. And fittingly enough, a sense of abstract playfulness is key to this music. The songs are hard to pin down, but “French fantasy-movie soundtrack” is a good place to start with this disc, which feels more art project than rock band. The band seems earnest in their endeavor, and while the music might strike some as overly angular and disconcordant, it also maintains an element of elegance—thanks in large part to the singer’s sweet French lilt, reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto. And for fans of Portishead and Stereolab (whose singer Laetitia Sadier founded this group), Monstre Comic might sound just right.
The Jealous Girlfriends: The Jealous Girlfriends (Last Gang)
This is a “grower” album: I’ve been listening to it for the last few months, and falling in love with it more and more every time I hear it. The music is textured and atmospheric—full of swirling guitars and unobtrusive melodies—but without the usual shoegazer malaise. The band makes great use of two vocal leads (the girl’s sultry and rich à la Beth Orton and Fiona Apple, the guy’s deep and luxurious) that play off each other effortlessly. This disc is full of indie-rock goodness; the songs sound fresh and fully formed. The result is a great album; as a matter of fact, it might be one of the best records of 2008.
Grant Moser is an art writer and frequent contributing writer for the Brooklyn Rail.
Steffani Jemison’s A Rock, A River, A StreetBy Tara Aisha Willis
MARCH 2023 | Art Books
Reading A Rock, A River, A Street is like finding a way through an enigmatic moment of performance: the body is the thing that connects feelings and experiences, moves us through them. It is a train of thought, a largely unvoiced internal monologue to which we are given partial access.
Glitching Time and Time-Based MediaBy Charlotte Kent
OCT 2022 | Art and Technology
Time is a socio-technological system with profound organizing qualities that feels, these days, exceedingly oppressive. Theres never enough time! For anything. Calendars are the earliest containing device with the purpose of determining a social order; the history of the Roman calendar reveals the role of international and national politics that play out across each new temporal infrastructure. Our temporal orders have been designed through the global proclamation of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884 by colonial empires, the apocalyptic anxiety provocations of the doomsday clock established in 1947, the insistent instant-ness of digital time since the 1970s exacerbated by strings of video chat meetings of the last couple years, and the frenetic branding of our social/professional lives demanded by transnational corporate technologys mediation of everyone and everything, all the time. Its a mess.
Despite its Bumpy History, Merrily We Roll Along Glides Back to New YorkBy Billy McEntee
DEC 22–JAN 23 | Theater
The first time I saw Merrily was at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey in 2008; Stephen Sondheim apparently attended a performance and spoke to the cast. I remember being amazed by the score, confused by the story, but moved by the endingin that amateur productions final gesture, as the chorus refrains me and you during Our Time, antihero Franklin Shepards piano comes back on stage and he, alone, faces it. Maria Friedmans production, now sold out at New York Theatre Workshop, concludes with a similar visual, and an idea clicked: music is the you to Franklins me, the thing he cares most about and what he has to lose when the people who make him sing fade away, dimming like distant stars.
Spencer Longo’s TIMEBy Josh Schneiderman
SEPT 2022 | Art Books
The book uses unstapled pages from Time magazine as the bases of its collages. It shows what it feels like to live in a crumbling empire, in an era widely regarded as the end of history.