Easing Into the Summer of Jason Isbell, One 'GOD DAMN!' at a Time

Nicole Fara Silver for the Village Voice
Jason Isbell at the Capitol Theatre, 5/20/15
Last night, Jason Isbell was nearly twenty songs into his performance at the Capitol Theatre when members of the audience had to drag themselves away from the venue. It wasn't because Isbell was disappointing; his performance hadn't grown cumbersome or hit a lull in the least, and the set, which favored the bellows from 2013's transformative Southeastern with breaks for new material and old nostalgia, was hardly predictable as Isbell flew off the cuff without a predetermined setlist. The second-to-last train leaving Port Chester for Grand Central Station was pulling up just as he was rounding the bend of a powerful, stark, and present two hours onstage, and fans had two options. They could stick around to hear more — maybe a closer glimpse at Something More Than Free, his new record, as it won't be out until July 17 — and accept the fact that they were a very expensive cab ride away from home. They could wait around for the 12:18 a.m. train, maybe smoke a cigarette or few on the platform in the meantime — or they could sit on the Metro-North, marinating in the emotional aftermath of his balladry.

To be faced with a simple conundrum involving travel seemed appropriate and poetic, as Isbell seems to pose his most important questions and undertake his greatest soul-searching endeavors when he's in transit, reflecting on the tough stuff while moving from one place to another. See "Traveling Alone," "Super 8," and "Flying Over Water" on Southeastern, "Speed Trap Town" from Something More Than Free, and "Alabama Pines," off 2011's Here We Rest. (For further proof, simply look to his left arm, which has lyrics from Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" inked into its flesh: "Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled/From across that lonesome ocean.") It's almost as though the decision to play venues outside of New York City limits — the Capitol in Port Chester and the Space at Waterbury in Long Island the night before — was strategic, in that it gave Isbell fans an excuse to think as the train or cab quietly cut through the stillness of the suburban night. The intricacies and intimacies of Isbell's songs meander through painful pasts, nerve-racking plane rides, and homeward-bound journeys. Mulling over those as the city drew nigh made for the perfect ending to a flawless performance from a man who turns flawed odysseys into Southern epics in four lines or less.

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For Shilpa Ray, These Are 'Savage Times' Worth Singing Through

Ebru Yildiz
Shilpa Ray
When Shilpa Ray and her new label, Northern Spy, came up with a mock newspaper titled Savage Times as a promotion for her new record, Last Year's Savage, they created a realistic-looking webzine and printed up a broadsheet to distribute around coffee shops and record stores. Unwittingly, their wheeze created the perfectly titled publication for these savage times, when lust for power and money results in global devastation.

Ray, the onetime Beat the Devil member and Happy Hookers leader, and a longtime New York City denizen who currently lives in Brooklyn, can't escape power and money's reach, though. Money — the lack of it, of course — is the main reason Last Year's Savage took so long to make.

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Spotify Wants to 'Soundtrack Your Life' With DJ Tiesto and D'Angelo

Categories: Spotify

Courtesy of Spotify
Tiësto speaks at Spotify's press conference in New York City, 5/20/15.
The streaming wars are on. This week, Tidal continued to plug its plethora of star power by hosting two exclusive Jay Z concerts at Terminal 5, premiering Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj's "Feeling Myself" eye candy, and offering free and discounted passes to the Made in America Festival in Philadelphia — so it was up to streaming leader Spotify to up the ante. Today, the Swedish company, which touts 25 billion hours of streaming since its 2008 launch, held a live press conference in New York City to unveil its plans to "soundtrack your life."

In a scene straight out of HBO's Silicon Valley, Spotify turned a venue space on West 37th into a techie hangout for the announcement. Attendees — mostly male, wearing mostly dress shirts — watched with laptops open as Spotify's team, including CEO and founder Daniel Ek, gave a multimedia presentation. "We're a technology company by design but a music company at heart," said Ek. "We're kind of obsessed with how to integrate music into every aspect of people's lives."

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'Congregata' Is Glorious, Voguing Proof of FKA twigs' Pop Power

Lindsey Rhoades for the Village Voice
FKA twigs performs "Congregata" at the Brooklyn Hangar.
A decade before she began inspiring breathless admiration with her series of minimal, glitchy, r&b-tinged singles (and their accompanying videos, brimming with a raw — though often metaphorical — sexuality), FKA twigs came up in London dance clubs, starring in a number of pop-music videos as a backup dancer. With the release of last year's critically acclaimed LP1, twigs shifted from the shadows into the spotlight, sharply chronicling her move to stardom on one of the album's standout tracks, "Video Girl." More akin to eccentric performance artist than traditional pop singer, twigs produces work that defies categorization while defining her own unique sensibility. As a celebration of all that, twigs performed three sold-out nights of her electrifying, choreographed epic "Congregata" in a Brooklyn warehouse, part of Red Bull Music Academy's brilliantly curated annual NYC takeover.

"Congregata" is a Latin word for "coming together," and in that spirit, twigs collects all the elements and inspirations that have shaped her career and her work — most notably, her closest friends from London's dance scene, who performed a kind of contemporary dance–meets–vogue competition that the audience may have been unlikely to come across otherwise. The entire show was built around this collusion of bodies and expression through movement, with twigs playing both a central role and, more than once, sitting back and letting each of her dancers shine in their own right, including a showcase of voguing legends that brought the house down midway through the set.

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Cocoon Central Dance Team Romps Through an Absurdist Laugh Riot

Categories: Comedy, Interviews

Photo by Alex Fischer
Cocoon Central Dance Team
The Cocoon Central Dance Team wants to make up a language. Currently, its preferred mode of communication involves recorded clapping and farting sounds; bananas consumed while dancing; blue, full-body spandex (with head caps); diamonds moderately dispersed over faces; and major facial expressions. It's a language that can be heard all throughout their dances, sketches, and videos, which have been played and performed all over New York: at the Upright Citizens Brigade, MoMA P.S.1's Innovation in Contemporary Comedy Showcase, and Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's Broad City Live, for which Cocoon opened both here in town and in Philadelphia. The popularity is starting to snowball, and major networks like Comedy Central and MTV2 have started asking how they can translate the troupe's works to TV. The women are working on ideas for a full-length feature film.

Turns out theirs is a language all the right people are trying to learn how to speak.

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The Best Way to Say Goodbye to David Letterman

Categories: Comedy

via Wikipedia
David Letterman
This week in Cheap Laughs, we have a send-off for Dave, Seinfeld's fave, un-dateable trolls, Canadian goals, and the most fun you can have in a gay bar without actually having sex. Here's our rundown of the best in independently produced New York comedy this week.

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Richard Goldstein Returns to Rock in His Memoir 'Another Little Piece of My Heart'

Caleb Ferguson for the Village Voice
Richard Goldstein at home in Manhattan
Richard Goldstein can pinpoint the very minute his rock 'n' roll writing career lost its pulse.

It was back in 1970, six years after he'd started contributing to the Village Voice as its first rock critic. Having amassed a small library of conversations, ruminations, and eyewitness accounts regarding some of the Sixties' most pivotal moments in popular music under his byline, Goldstein was hardly in a position to be turning away from his work, but an event rocked him so deeply that he found it difficult — no, impossible — to pick up the pen and do the job he basically created. Janis Joplin, whom Goldstein had come to know and befriend following her and her soaring — albeit brief — run with Big Brother and the Holding Company, was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose in her Los Angeles hotel room at the age of 27. For him, that's when the music — or, specifically, writing about music — died.

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Courtney Barnett on Her Big Breakthrough: 'I Wanted to Be Able to Live off My Art'

Photo by Pooneh Ghana
Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett is not afraid to put her weak spots on display. "I'm not that good at breathing in," she drawls in "Avant Gardener." "Put me on a pedestal, I'll only disappoint you!" she shouts in "Pedestrian at Best." "I'm sorry for all of my insecurities, but it's just part of me," she shrugs in "Debbie Downer."

But don't let these admissions fool you into thinking that the Australian rocker is anything less than a dynamo. It's precisely this candid self-doubt that's the source of her power.

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Mastodon's Brann Dailor Remembers His New York City Youth

Categories: Interviews, Metal

Photo by Travis Shinn, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
Progressive metal band Mastodon call Atlanta home, but drummer Brann Dailor is originally from New York. Born in Rochester, Brann grew up with parents he calls "hippies," who gave him a Celtic name (pronounced "Bron"), derived from a mythical king, Bran the Blessed. The king's story involves a magic cauldron, a talking severed head, and a troubled sister. It's the sort of stuff you might find in Mastodon's lyrics, or on their concept albums dealing with themes of death or grand quests.

These days, everything about the band — the scale of their music and their success — seems to be ever-increasingly colossal, as will be the size of the crowd likely to turn up for their SummerStage performance in Central Park on May 19.

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Sing for Hope Pianos Returns to Fill NYC's Public Spaces With Music

Courtesy of Sing for Hope Pianos
Franck de Las Mercedes
After a year off, Sing for Hope Pianos is returning to New York City, resuming its tradition of installing public pianos throughout the city for two weeks in the summer.

The charity organization was founded in 2006 by Juilliard-trained singers Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, and aims to make music and art more accessible in the community. The Sing for Hope Pianos public art installation began in 2011 and ran for three consecutive summers (enduring minor complications early on).

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