Kind of Local Music: The Best of Kind of Local 2011
From the musicians who have roots in the area and those who have become local favorites by virtue of performances in Lake George, we’ve selected a few who produced noteworthy albums in 2011.
Less precious than “Eyelid Movies,” the duo’s debut album, Phantogram’s Nightlife may be one of the best recordings of the year. Period. Dubbed a mini-album rather than an EP, Nightlife’s six songs build upon a broader range of references, from post punk to power pop, and offer a much more richly textured sonic experience, than did Eyelid Movies. According to Josh Carter, who, like his partner Sarah Barthel, hales from that hotbed of hip, Greenwich, NY, Nightlife is a harbinger of what’s to come. If so, prepare to be blown away.
Before joining bands like Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie at Barsuk Records, Phantogram was part of the Glens Falls-based Sub Bombin collective and record label, where they recorded under the name of Charlie Everywhere. This year, Sub-Bomin released Psychopomp, Rawhead’s third full-length album and his first to be pressed in wax. Comments Adam Winters, the Lake George Mirror’s former assistant editor, “Innovative experimentation live with drums and looping, from a veteran producer with a newfound command of negative space and astral tension. Get in on a little hometown secret before it goes viral – Rawhead is for real.”
In 1973, Robin Hall (whose family lives in Bolton Landing) was working in an Albany record store called Just a Song. There he met a guitarist named Chris Gray who shared his fondness for the Stooges, the Velvets, Love, Mc5, etc. They both moved to New York, and joined by SUNY Albany alum Randy Cohen (better known today as the New York Times Magazine’s Ethicist columnist), Boris Policeband and later, bassist George Scott, they formed a band
called Jack Ruby. According to Mercury’s A&R man Paul Nelson, the band “sounded like the Velvet Underground in a car crash,” which helps explain why he never signed them. The band, however, became legendary, hailed by the likes of Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore as a precursor to punk, no-wave and the avant-garde noise rock of Glen Branca and John Zorn. A fan unearthed the lost demos and rehearsal tapes and an album of their surviving music was released by ugEXPLODE Records this year. Valuable as a rock artifact, the music is, to the surprise of many, also actually listenable – which just goes to show how much our ears have been educated since then, by groups who took their cues from this Rimbaud of bands.
Queen of the Minor Key
In 2007, shortly after the release of her second album, John Strong booked Eilen Jewell to perform in Shepard Park. Rain, however, forced the concert indoors, to King Neptune’s pub, usually a venue for highly paid cover and dance bands.
But the club setting turned out to be an appropriate showcase; Jewel proved that she was as much a rocker as a folk singer, and in Strong’s estimation, the show was among the best of the season. She returned to Lake George a couple of years later for another show, one that wed her folk-style songwriting to vintage R&B, Midwestern garage rock, Chicago blues, and early rock and rockabilly. Queen of the Minor Key shows how thoroughly Jewell has absorbed these influences, and why she is winning national recognition.
Friends of Fall
Boston-based Crooked Still performed in Shepard Park in 2010, and left the crowds astonished. Their recent EP, Friends of Fall, reminds us why, delivering spot-on blue grass renditions of pop and rock tunes and, of all things, a Wendell Berry poem. If American Country music had evolved as it should have, this is what WENU would be playing, not Brad Paisley.
Stefon Harris, David Sánchez, Christian Scott
Paul Pines has brought so many jazz greats to the Lake George Jazz Weekend, it’s not surprising that a few of them would get together, even if it’s not on the stage in Shepard Park. For this project, vibist Stefon Harris (Albany High School, class of 1991), saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott spent a week in Havana recording with Cuban musicians. The goal was not to make a political statement, but to make music, and the result is pure joy.
Also noteworthy: The single, “Video Games” by Lana Del Ray (nee Elizabeth Grant, Lake Placid); Skeletons in the Piano, “Stranger on a Damned Staircase;” Railbird, “(No One)”; Matthew Carefully, “Brunswick Soundtrack.”