Archive for May, 2010

Leeni

May 30, 2010

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8-Bit Heart

Leeni’s music takes you into another dimension, perhaps one with only two dimensions, depending where your video nostalgia begins and the real world ends. Leeni’s 8-bit world is so believable that you’d swear you were listening to Princess Peach crooning into a 4-track and awaiting the valiant Mario and Luigi. Of course, she’s not just a princess helplessly pining away, she’s writing in her diary and playing records in her room that’s decorated with New Order and Shangri-La’s posters.

The 8-bit sounds are grade school kitsch and are an unusual counterpoint to Leeni’s soulful, gentle, airy, and even mystical voice. Her words, though, are straightforward, thoughtful, heartfelt, and clever. “Raw Footage” is a bouncy, romantic tale that switches between first and third person. It’s as transitioning between dreams and reality are a conduit to a higher state, as if bliss can be achieved with a combination of both dimensions.

One of the many charming lyrics pleas, “Why can’t life be edited down and set to music?” “Perfection Interrupted” also uses film metaphors but this time to sing of someone’s shortcomings. It furthers the effect that Leeni truly lives in an 8-bit world, seeing her process human qualities in metaphors that never step outside of a television.

Leeni could do one show at Comic Con and start a cult with the fervor of Trekies, but she’d probably prefer the local coffee shop or record convention. Who thinks about fans and success when you’re trapped inside a two dimensional castle?

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

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Club 8

May 30, 2010

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Labrador Records

How wonderful it is for a band that is already really good to get even better.

Club 8 is a Swedish duo consisting of Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård, who’ve been releasing albums since 1995. Their music typically blends the whimsy of Swedish pop, the intimacy of twee, the sweetness of bubblegum, the personal lyricism that could give Stuart Murdoch and Morrissey a run for their money, and the strong hooks to match.

Despite the quality and consistency, they’ve seemed to allude grabbing any significant attention from the States. Maybe that’s because they refused touring and interviews. Their seventh full-length release, The People’s Record, takes their sound and songwriting a step further with an emphasis on percussion. This album is by far their most danceable, utilizing syncopation and driving beats that suggest influences from Latin and African music.

It is no coincidence that this is their first record Johan didn’t produce. Enlisting the help of Jari Haapalainen in the control room, they sought inspiration with a trip to Brazil and built up a record collection of 1970s Western African classics. To flesh out their new direction, the teamed up with percussionist, Jouni Haapala, a fellow Nordic musician whose spent time learning the heart of the beats on a spell in Cuba.

To balance all these cheerful aesthetics, Club 8’s lyrical tendencies still veer down the paths of dour and forlorn. With titles like, “Dancing with the Mentally Ill,” “My Pessimistic Heart,” “Be Mad, Get Ill, Be Still,” and “We’re All Going to Die,” Club 8 may be taking their tunes to the discothèques, but they haven’t checked their problems at the door. They are in fact celebrating these dark feelings, which very well may be the mark of maturity that has guided their artistic progression so effectively.


Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Outdoor Dining in Queens: Where to Eat and Drink This Summer

May 30, 2010

Getting outside is what warm weather is about. For many, Queens is an afterthought. The advantage of getting less attention is you often experience more bang for your buck. This list of seven places will give the other boroughs a run for their money in quality, décor, price, and atmosphere. And let’s be honest here, whatever strangers you end up sitting next to in Queens will likely rate lower on the annoying index than Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island. This list is a brief introduction to the myriad charms of outdoor dining in queens.

Dominies Hoek | 48-17 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City | myspace.com/dominieshoek
This neighborhood gem in LIC keeps a mellow vibe, perfect for conversation and relaxation. The Hoek is un-pretentious yet not rough around the edges. The back patio is open year round and boasts the following specials at all times: $2 PRB Cans & Busch Cans, $5 Beer + Shot Specials, $3 Miller High Life Bottles. In addition, their happy hour features $3 for all beers, and Sangrias from Noon till 7pm Mondays through Fridays. If you’re hungry, they serve up some delicious sandwiches and burgers.

LIC Bar | 45-58 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City | licbar.com
Charming décor without being too hip or wussy, LIC Bar is good any time of year. The inside offers a cozy and dimly lit classic New York City watering hole. The spacious outdoor garden sits like a courtyard flanked by brick walls. Beers, single malts, stiff drinks, and tunes all blend together for the perfect hang. Bands and DJ’s provide entertainment multiple days of the week. Both casual and cool, LIC Bar adds a touch of classy and classic to a laid-back imbibing experience.

The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall | 29-19 24th Ave. (29th St.), Astoria | bohemianhall.com
You all know this one. It’s very possible that more New Yorkers have visited Queens for The Beer Garden than to see the Mets play. Picnic tables, pitchers, Czech beer, and Brats make for a festive outdoor party every night of the summer.  Besides being a perennial favorite, Bohemian Hall holds a place in history as one of the oldest bars in all of New York City.  Weeknights ensure shorter lines and easier entry. Though they have no drink specials, you will not break the bank on their beers, which are available as pints or pitchers. Check their website for a live music and cultural festival calendar.

Studio Square | 35-33 36th St, Long Island City | studiosquarenyc.com
So everyone’s willing to make the trek out to Astoria to go to The Beer Garden? Why not open another one? Studio Square is a more upscale take on the beer garden concept, close in appearance to a hotel resort. The space is sprawling yet still crowded on weekends. It’s not close by foot to the original beer garden, but if the line at Bohemian stretches to the train, you can hoof it over to Studio Square to see if getting in has any better chances. They boast no regular specials but check their website for upcoming events.

Quaint | 46-10 Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, | 917.779.9220 | www.quaintnyc.com
Nominated for Best New Restaurant in Queens in Time Out New York, this treasure on the ever-charming Skillman Avenue is a great destination for date night al fresco. They specialize in New American cuisine with an emphasis on local products, which will quench your carbon footprint concerns. Go for dinner, hang out a little longer for a drink, gaze into your significant other’s eyes, and feel the love.

Water Taxi Beach | Water Taxi Terminal, Long Island City | watertaxibeach.com
Manhattan is lovely shade of grand, especially when you are across the river looking back at it. The summer beach bar at the Water Taxi dock is the best spot in Queens to imbibe and ingest while taking in the view. They boast cheap PBR deals, tropical blended drinks, and quality burgers, dogs, and fries. People complain about the heavy security, but alas, when you party on city property, the checks and balances are numerous. It’s only one stop from Grand Central.

Cavo | 42-18 31st Avenue, Astoria | cavoastoria.com
Award-winning chef, Richard Farnabe, runs the kitchen in this sprawling Greek restaurant. In addition to the dining and bar space indoors, they boast a large multilevel outdoor space complete with dining area, bar, and cocktail tables. Friday nights at 9:30, belly dancers warm up the floors to lead into a DJ extravaganza of House, Hip-Hop, and Greek booty jams.  Whether you’re craving a selection of fish or just a glass of Sangria, Cavo’s outdoor garden will have you soaking up summer in style.

Originally published on OffManhattan.com

Takka Takka

May 18, 2010

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Ernest Jennings Recordings

Although they inhabit the indie-rock world, Takka Takka have developed even stronger cues from both electronica and world-music since their first, indie and blues-based album, We Feel Safer At Night. With titles like “Monkey Forest Road,” “Lion In The Waves,” and “You and Universe,” these guys seem to have a (somewhat ironic?) fascination and respect for the power of the natural world that is further reflected in their sound. Likewise, the tracks build organically, whether they’re employing a guitar or a synthesized drum. The songs are heartfelt but not boastful, emotional yet muted.

Generally, there’s a grab for “atmospheric”, though the band’s dueling guitars battle out a contrast between pretty and dissonant under the ongoing swell, while the moments of melodic disruption are given enough breathing room in tempo and dynamic range to fully revel in their tonal tension. Takka Takka break the solid rhythm section groove occasionally like on “Lion In The Waves”, which consists of bare acoustic strumming and a haunting vocal that moves from his usual, straightforward delivery into a, dizzying, double-tracked delay that eventually recedes back into the sparse and simple. The effect is powerful yet understated.

Another mellow beauty is “Change No Change”, a track with gentle restraint that threatens to flare into a full on beat-driven peak but never does, as anticipation adds to suspense and the song simmers. It’s not their restraint that’s surprising, so much as the elements they use to keep their album on cruise control. Ultimately, this is a very different band. With Migration, Takka Takka have moved from the obvious trailmarkers of the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan mixed with their early 90 fetishism of indie rock towards hypnotic songs that draw as much from “tropical” and “jungle” nuances as they do from a krautier, chunkier sort of rhythm. We’ll never know if these changes are natural, or trend-biting. Either way, the new Takka Takka is far removed from its past, less an indie buzz band under the wings of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, then something subtler, more mellow; it’s an atmosphere that might be one part Vampire Weekend, or two parts Yeasayer, but while those are still barnstormer bands of sorts, Takka Takka matches the effect of a satisfying day alone indoors with the faint sound of rain falling beyond the windows.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Mirah “The Old Days Feeling”

May 18, 2010

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K Records

The Old Days Feeling retains that tender personal bedroom quality of her previous work that seems to mark all K artists in some way, and Mirah in particular. Mirah also retains her songwriting strength while widening her sonic palette.

“Slighted” dresses up a melancholy message with vintage reggae instrumentation. Like the old rhythm and blues sound of early Desmond Dekker and Toots, Mirah flexes the Jah muscle with ease and authenticity. “Don’t” brings the Phil Spector girl-group feel to the Dub Narcotic studio style and is the most obvious “hit” sounding track on the record. It’s the kind of song that’ll have you hopping on your vintage bike to trek down to the diner for a milkshake. “Don’t Go” kicks in heavier than we’re used to hearing Mirah, employing a power drenched chord ascension. It then transitions to the more familiar tender tone of a romantic plea that makes the case that her love is in danger of faltering when they’re not together.

It’s the only entrance of a truly heavy track. “Lone Star” uses Texan metaphors to describe the size and impact of the story’s muse in a mythic and tragic way. The clamoring refrain is infectious and seems to be in the tradition of songs like “Gigantic”.

Mirah’s songs put sexuality, love, confusion, and emotional gentility constantly side-by-side. She translates the complexity of any situation with ease and reminds you how much deeper a person’s feelings run than most art. She also explores sexuality not only from the point of experience but also culturally and socially, bravely putting herself in different shoes to see what it’s like. Like many great K artists, Mirah can weave a near-nursery rhyme with subversive sonic power and modern adult issues while retaining the sting of simplicity. She has the ability to make you truly feel like no other record you have could ever be as honest as this one.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.