Kurt Vile Shares Wakin on a Pretty Daze at Electric Lady Studios

Better than: Cocktails that make your lips turn gold.

Last night in Electric Lady Studios, about 90 people gathered in the famed recording studio. The reason? Philadelphia's pensive guitar maestro (and longhair enthusiast) Kurt Vile hosted a listening party for his upcoming album Wakin on a Pretty Daze, out April 9th. Before most anybody showed up, Vile soundchecked a handful of songs--some old, some new, some unidentifiable--but as those "industry types" trotted in and began sipping free cocktails and pale ales, he packed up his guitar, his walkman CD player, and the copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road sitting next to his stool, and exited without much of a word. Nobody noticed.

See also: Q&A: Kurt Vile on His Favorite Bob Seger Song and the Neil Young Solo That Changed His Life

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Live: Yo La Tengo Light The Menorah At Maxwell's One More Time

Lee Ranaldo & Steve Shelley w/Yo La Tengo, "Mote"

Yo La Tengo: Hanukkah Shows
December 20-27

Better than: Christmas.

Hanukkah doesn't technically end until sundown Wednesday, but Yo La Tengo unplugged their electric menorah at Maxwell's last night, just after a post-midnight sign-off where Ira Kaplan's mother sang "My Little Corner of the World." Despite the junior Kaplan's recent (unspecified) health scare that left him confined to a bar stool for this year's series of Hanukkah shows, his band's sets seemed more expansive than ever, spilling between relaxed arrangements, deeper-than-usual noise jams (bassist James McNew has been moonlighting with Kid Millions' Man Forever), Georgia Hubley ballads, indie pop, and covers—and Bobcat Goldthwait was there, too.

This year, the band played some 134 different songs over Hanukkah; the set lists included the usual tour through its 27-year back catalogue, tunes by great Jewish songwriters (number of Velvet Underground songs this year: somehow only 3), and appearances by ex-YLT roommates (Maxwell's co-owner Todd Abramson on "The Aba Dabba Do Dance"; WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields growling through "My Little Red Book"). But the stunt guitarists—recruited quickly as back-up for Kaplan—were this year's main attraction. Though Superchunk founder Mac McCaughan took most of the leads on opening night, it was soon obvious that the extra players were there to jam, not substitute for Kaplan, who seemed mostly at full strength, minus the occasional charge at the amp.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part V: Who Is Bon Iver, Again?

D.L. Anderson
That's ee-vayr to you, Nicki Minaj.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Greetings to you four from Bloomington, Indiana, a happening college town perhaps one or more of you have flown over at some point. It's the birthplace of Hoagy Carmichael and David Lee Roth, and the home of John Mellencamp and Jagjaguwar Records, a label which this year released an album called Bon Iver, Bon Iver that you may have heard of. Most critics liked it, some liked it a lot, Rosie O'Donnell wanted more, pop lovers and rockists alike united to sneer at the smoothness of his album's textures and its ostensibly outré signifiers (I prefer the first album, but am a sucker for the Bruce Hornsby vibes of "Beth/Rest"). At the time of writing, 317,375 music fans have purchased it—40,000 more than Fleet Foxes, 40,000 less than LMFAO. Yet once the album was nominated for several Grammys last month, lots of people microcasted their ignorance of this album on Twitter. Quickly, another person culled this proudly professed ignorance into a Tumblr called "Who Is Bon Iver?" A member of a long-dormant Australian DJ concern accused him of "selling out" for lending his increased profile to something so horrifying as a whiskey concern, even though the accuser's own group hypocritically endorses deadly mountain calamities.

So what happened? Did the Bro From Eau Claire break through, or is he still a secret? If you follow music on the internet with any regularity, you couldn't go a day without hearing about him, but if you don't, there's a good chance you don't have any idea how to pronounce the name, and wait, the white guy from Kanye's album made his own album and everyone loves it apparently? To Twitter! It's clear why Bon Iver in 2011, just like Arcade Fire in 2010, made ripples critically, popularly, and awardishly—they fit long-established rock tropes into a modern, gently hip, and well-executed form. And it's also clear that this is happening at a point when with very few exceptions, good weird rock music is the last thing you expect to hear released by a music label owned by a multinational corporation.

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Live: Sonic Youth Get Caught Between Bad Moon Rising and New York City

Sonic Youth w/Wild Flag, Kurt Vile
Williamsburg Waterfront
Friday, August 12

Better than: Listening to a playlist of the set on Spotify.

Just before Sonic Youth played "Starfield Road," from 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, at Friday night's Williamsburg Waterfront gig, singer-guitarist Thurston Moore held things up. "Mark, what's the chords?" he asked of bassist Mark Ibold, who had been playing in Pavement at the time that record came out. "We started rehearsing for this show two days ago," Moore said, explaining the pause. "We've decided to go back deep. It's been a while since we've played some of these. Mark was always in the audience, so he knows [the chords]." Then, as Ibold and fellow bassist Kim Gordon began pounding out actual notes, Moore made head-swirling feedback and noise with his guitar as he ranted and raved about dirty sex for two minutes. Proper chords, indeed.

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Five Reasons You Should See Wild Flag Tonight

The term "supergroup" is pretty well overused in this hyperadjectived age, so let's call Wild Flag—ex-Sleater Kinneyans Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, former Helium mastermind Mary Timony, and onetime Minder Rebecca Cole—something more superlative, because they certainly deserve it. Superdupergroup? Megagroup? Mondoband? Whatever you prefer, they're playing the Williamsburg Waterfront tonight with Sonic Youth and Kurt Vile, and tickets are still available. A few reasons why you should maybe alter your plans tonight and take the plunge near the East River, after the jump.

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This Weekend In New York: Theophilus London, Kurt Vile, And A Bit Of Possible Self-Parody


In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.

This weekend involved lots of semi-aimless wandering around the city for Debbie and me, for which we were rewarded with one strange new friend after another. It was sort of like Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, minus the copious weed smoking and cameos by Doogie Howser.

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Q&A: Kurt Vile on His Favorite Bob Seger Song and the Neil Young Solo That Changed His Life

Kurt Vile is a virtuoso of self-pity. As a songwriter, he paints more shades in this particular spectrum--industrial silver, steel-blue, watery gray--than just about anyone. His newest record, Smoke Ring For My Halo, is a small masterpiece of this small subset of emotion, nailing the center of the same peculiarly Middle American loneliness--squat strip malls, brown open fields, fleeting sugar highs--that Modest Mouse explored on The Lonesome Crowded West. Vile's songs don't rely on much: just his sardonic voice, a shimmering, cavernous sense of open space, and his blinding John Fahey-style acoustic finger-picking (a skill, one notes, acquired only through repetitive hours spent hunched over a guitar, alone). And yet Kurt Vile in person is no mumbling sad-sack. "Some of those songs piled up on this record, and people could misread it as totally dark," he says. "But it's never total gloom; it's just like a human feeling."  Relaxed, friendly, and chatty, Vile talked to us about obsessive bits-and-scraps approach to his songs, why certain thoughts and phrases never seem to disappear from his music, the Neil Young guitar note that changed his life, and his first-ever song (about Lex Luthor's hair).

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Live: Kurt Vile Commands A Sea Of Hair And Plaid At Union Pool

kurt vile more hair.jpg
Get used to not seeing this dude's face. Pics by Georgia, way more below.
Kurt Vile
Union Pool
Friday, June 18

Union Pool is one of the long-standing hook-up bars in Williamsburg. For as long as we can remember, it's been a place where people, usually young and fresh-faced college kids new to Brooklyn, go to flirt and maybe get picked up. But on Friday night, things were different: Kurt Vile was playing in the club space, and with him came a menagerie of older, bearded, more experienced gentlemen.

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