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July 2016
Big Thief
"Masterpiece
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Throughout Masterpiece, the humbly sublime debut album from Brooklyn folk-rock quartet Big Thief, love braves through woe. As sung by the ever welcoming Adrienne Lenker, these painful yet vital songs near a height of beauty that reminds one of music’s transcendent power.

Following the nimble opener “Little Arrow,” the album starts its raw power with “Masterpiece” (streaming below), the rollicking single that deservedly drew attention a few months back with its panoramic view of searching souls. Like Bob Dylan’s generation-defining “Like a Rolling Stone” from the 1960s, this guitar-trickled song is both addicting and elegant, rough and pretty and, ultimately, lasting in its sheer soulfulness.

A series of lyrically vivid tracks named after potential lovers (“Paul” and “Randy,” for example) follows next, alongside guitar-winded cuts that briskly tackle such elusive motifs as romance and the transience of time, emitting an overall beatific aura in the process.

The type of record that has the possibility of transporting the listener to a calmer, perhaps better plain of existence, Masterpiece is not just the first offering from an intriguing new band but a preciously passionate work in and of itself. – Zach Weg

 
The 60's

Band of Gypsys

Bob Dylan

Bruce Haack

The Fugs

The Godz

Holy Modal Rounders

Velvet Underground
The 70's
Television
Patti Smith
The New York Dolls

The Ramones

The Talking Heads
Richard Hell
The Dead Boys
Blondie
Suicide
Lydia Lunch
DNA  
Mars
The Contortions  
The 80's
Afrika Bambaataa
Arto Lindsay
Bad Brains
Beastie Boys
Bruce Springsteen
The Feelies
The Fleshtones
Grandmaster Melle Mel
John Zorn
Laurie Anderson
Public Enemy
Run D.M.C.
Sonic Youth
Swans
They Might Be Giants
The 90's
A Tribe Called Quest
Cat Power

Jeff Buckley

The Magnetic Fields
Nas
The Notorious B.I.G.
Soul Coughing
Yo La Tengo
The 00's
The Strokes
Interpol
TV on The Radio
Fiery Furnaces
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Bravery
Animal Collective
Bright Eyes
Devendra Banhart
Moldy Peaches
Le Tigre
Liars
Blonde Redhead
Grizzly Bear
 

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Marathoner Mike day 1: Wild International, Mainland, Click Clack Boom, Adrienne Drake, Blip Blip Bleep, Deathrow Tull

Marathoner Mike day 1: Wild International, Mainland, Click Clack Boom, Adrienne Drake, Blip Blip Bleep, Deathrow Tull

And so it begins… the first lap of the CMJ marathon landed me in the East Village last night until 3ish, starting with Long Island band Wild International at Webster Hall. Wild is a group best described as what Panda bear might sound like were he in a punk band. This three piece moved from jangle to thrash in equal measure and even premiered a brand new song, ‘Creeks’, complete with water sound effects and campfire croons. But by far the best thing Wild International might have been guitarist Ryan Camenzuli’s mom, who was really cool and could have been an Animal Collective fan herself - we all need cool and supportive mothers at shows!

Next up was Mainland. Singer Jordan Topf wins the award for wearing the tightest pair of jeans of the night, and his band's sound was an equal match. Absolutely one of the most enthusiastic of the night’s groups, their dexterous bassist reacted so joyously to each song’s change you’d think he was more their fan than bandmate. Despite their numerous soundchecks, including a couple broken strings, they powered through in no small part to the young lead singers’ boundless energy.

And then came something entirely different… Click Clack Boom are from rural Pennsylvania but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from this group in NYC. The four piece were high energy and ready at a moments notice to nail a solid riff to their material. I could see them grabbing a drink with the Arctic Monkeys sometime and trading stories of filthy lucre and other such debaucheries. One part storyteller/one part auctioneer, lead singer Nathaniel Hoho gave us such endearing lyrics as “I love this woman, she loved cocaine, but she was fucking all my friends.”

And that was it for Webster Hall. After grabbing a quick slice at South Brooklyn Pizza shared with CMJ artist/East Village insider Emily Greene (playing tonight at Spike Hill!), I hurried over to the No Pulp CMJ show at Arlenes grocery to catch (pictureless) glo-fi torchbearer Adrienne Drake bring the romance. This shoe-gazey songwriter swings a big wall of circuitry at melodrama and makes quirky throwback synths dance-ready. Think Ariel Pink covering The Cure.

Next up was a band competing with Click Clack Boom for the comic book-ready band name of the night: Blip Blip Bleep. This Brooklyn-based power pop trio opened with a song to make me wish to god it was Friday already (though not in a Rebecca Black kinda way). Giving The Pains of Being Pure at Heart a run for their money, this three piece put more sounds into their keyboard-backed anthems than most bands twice their size. This included generous doses of Ableton Live, and I should also mention that their very attractive keyboardist Kayce McGehee had two very well endowed mini-korgs of her own to frame her figure. Their cover of ‘Beat It’ was made all the sexier when she turned it around into a feminist disco anthem.

Finally the evening came to a close with Brooklyn’s Deathrow Tull. Here’s a band that has their thing down, with every moment carefully choreographed to the smallest detail. An incredible exercise in jazz/ hip-hop style democracy you don’t usually find in covers of ‘Let's Get It On,’ There was an excellent juxtaposition here between the smooth soul of Temple Grindin’s soprano, and Broke and Dyalekt’s hard-edged rhymes. It was a sweaty end to my first lap of CMJ, and I can’t wait to get back out there tonight.

- Mike Levine (@goldnuggets)

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