Taylor Swift Celebrates Her 25th Birthday at the Z100 Jingle Ball to Screams of Adoration

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(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Taylor Swift performs onstage during iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2014, hosted by Z100 New York and presented by Goldfish Puffs at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2014, in New York City.
Better Than: Listening to these pop hits at a bar filled with SantaCon goons.

Attending Z100's Jingle Ball is like being thrust into a crash course on what's dominating today's Top 40 charts. On December 13 at Madison Square Garden, the annual holiday concert bill was the largest it's ever been: Sixteen different performers took the stage, many of them returning more than once for duets and collaborations over the course of the four-hour performance. As a result, the holiday show's pace was relentless and sometimes individual sets were so brief that only one song (or a dizzyingly fast medley) was spit out by the fresh-faced pop stars in the spotlight. The hurried pace of the night launched the audience into a state of constant stimulation -- it's a similar sensation to flipping through TV channels or absentmindedly surfing YouTube videos.

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Swans Punish a Sold-Out Crowd at Warsaw in Greenpoint

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Swans publicity photo via Facebook
Michael Gira at work with Swans
Better Than: Standing in front of a sputtering jet engine.

On Friday night at Warsaw (261 Driggs Avenue) in Greenpoint, Swans performed to a sold-out crowd of masochists, who seemed to welcome the punishing drone as though it were candy. Many in the crowd wisely wore earplugs. The sheer volume of Swans easily overpowered anyone who was silly enough to forget their pair at home. Speaking in purely referential terms, only My Bloody Valentine is louder. But while My Bloody Valentine's legendary 20-minute dissonant noise-pummeling takes place in the middle of "You Made Me Realise," Swans maintained that level of intensity for their two-hour set, giving in only occasionally for Michael Gira to scat-sing or for the band to transition between songs.

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The Smashing Pumpkins TCOB in NYC with a Pop-Up Shop and Businesslike Gig

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All photos by Sachyn Mital for the Village Voice
Billy Corgan at Webster Hall
Better Than: Dave Grohl

The Smashing Pumpkins need no introduction. When they hit the stage, it's because it's time to hit the stage. There's no banter, no countdown, no pyrotechnics. Billy Corgan and his band of merry men, sans James Iha and any female presence, D'arcy Wretzky or otherwise, launched into "One and All (We Are)" from their new album, Monuments to an Elegy, with little warning on Monday night at Webster Hall. The show felt like a transaction, and Corgan wanted to make sure we got our money's worth. Along with Jeff Schroeder, Corgan brought on Killers bassist Mark Stoermer and Rage Against the Machine's Brad Wilk for the gig.

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Ryan Adams and the Shining - Hammerstein Ballroom - 11/23

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Vladislav Grach
Ryan Adams rocks Hammerstein
Better Than: That time where I could've seen Ryan Adams open for Oasis in 2008 and passed on it, like, "Eh, they'll both be back around soon enough," and then waited six years for a chance to see Adams for the first time.

Ryan Adams is a charmer. That's something that got lost in the shuffle back when he and the media had a more contentious relationship, back when he was a supposedly more erratic performer and person. He's a talker, and he's hilarious. Sunday night at the Hammerstein, it was goofy asides about debating the color of a guitar with a bandmate, or a long story about going through airport security back in the just-after-9-11 days, when Adams was sporting what he deemed his "drug beard." The approach gives Adams's live show a freewheeling, hanging-with-all-my-friends kind of vibe. Particularly last night -- having called NYC home for many years before moving out to L.A., Adams was psyched to be back, and the whole thing had the aura of a homecoming. "Let's do this shit," he said when he first walked onstage. "I'm in a great goddamn mood."

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Photos: The Final Show at Death by Audio

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All photos by Rob Menzer for the Village Voice
Crowd-surfing on Saturday night at Death by Audio. See all the Death by Audio final show photos.
The DIY music scene in north Brooklyn continues to see its venues close. On Saturday, Death by Audio (49 S. 2nd Street) hosted its last show in a seven-year run as a DIY space in Williamsburg. Grooms, JEFF the Brotherhood, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Lightning Bolt performed for a packed house. A few people threw issues of Vice magazine around the space as Lightning Bolt played. (Vice is moving in.) Photos by Rob Menzer for the Village Voice.

See also: With the Coming Closing of Death by Audio, Many NYC DIYs Are Going Legit

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Caribou - Webster Hall - 11/14/14

Categories: Last Night, Live

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Better Than: Disclosure covering Darkside

Fourteen years ago, Ontario crate-digger Dan Snaith embarked on a musical endeavor that would come to be known as Caribou, largely a bedroom recording project long before that phrase warranted eye-rolling over the notion that anyone with Avid could become a producer overnight. Snaith, no doubt, has inspired many a Johnny-come-lately with Pro Tools, but he has always been of a finer breed, interpreting hip-hop beats and samples, soul, psychedelia, and Kraut-rock through his unique lens. Each of his records is a brilliant meditation on a particular range of ideas and styles, taken apart, examined, and reassembled as a painstakingly realized masterpiece brimming with thoughtfully constructed songs.

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Jenny Lewis - Terminal 5 - 11/5/14

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Jena Cumbo
Jenny Lewis gets wavy at T5.
Jenny Lewis
Terminal 5
Nov. 5

Better Than: Most reasons to schlep to Terminal 5.

"I wore my rainbow suit just for you," Jenny Lewis joked to the sold-out crowd at Terminal 5 last night. But Lewis followers (and even a fair-weather fan or two) are shrewder than that: The rainbow pattern of said suit has become Lewis's symbol for her The Voyager album cycle, appearing on everything from the album cover's infamous jacket to Lewis's guitar and stage set.

The whimsical, vintage imagery sums up where Lewis currently finds her music. The singer's third album as a solo artist, The Voyager is Lewis's coolest-sounding musically, influenced by artists of late-'70s California and imbued with Lewis's unmistakable pop stylings.

See also: Jenny Lewis Transitions From Everyone's Fave Indie Sweetheart to 'Very Good Girl'

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Kimbra Thrives Under New Spotlight at Soho House

Categories: Last Night

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Photo by Nathaniel Chadwick courtesy Soho House
Kimbra wows with short set at Soho House
While most know Kimbra for the bold backing vocals she provided to "Somebody That I Used To Know," the hit that slingshot Gotye from the all-inclusive (albeit contained) expanse of Australian pop to global domination in 2011, the New Zealander has long since broken out on her own with a sizable amount of success. Her debut full-length, Vows, capitalized on the momentum left over from the Gotye smash in 2011, with the record sitting pretty in the Top 5 spots on the Australian charts and rising as high as No. 14 stateside. Still, for someone whose voice can be recognized from one of the biggest earworms of the decade, naming a Kimbra single is a difficult feat for those who casually encounter her via streaming, radio, or festival lineups.

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Mötley Crüe - Madison Square Garden - 10/28/14

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All photos Nate "Igor" Smith. See all of our Mötley Crüe in NYC photos.
Better Than: Seeing them on most of their other tours from the past 15 years.

"If this didn't work out, I don't know where you guys would be," said Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx in the middle of his band's final NYC show. "Maybe you'd be at a Mumford and Sons concert." Sixx's quote and the audience's subsequent boos were all in good fun, but that's the nature of a Mötley Crüe show. Amid the fire, the dancing girls, the moving stages, and the Mumford jokes was three decades of good cheer and memories. For a packed Garden audience, the '80s hair-metal heroes closed the book on their time together. For Crüe, it's only fitting that the final chapter was an excessively debauched party that went out with a series of deafening bangs.

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Zola Jesus - Webster Hall - 10/19

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Photo by DeShaun Craddock
Better Than: Being stranded in the Russian wilderness

As Zola Jesus, Nika Roza Danilova has spent six years honing a very singular craft that's mostly unlike anything else in music. Approaching her vocal performance squarely from a pop diva angle, she's often gone on to obscure or juxtapose it with moody, abrasive compositions that have earned her cred in goth and industrial scenes. Her releases on Sacred Bones Records all followed this formula, beginning in 2009 with The Spoils, then continuing through 2010's breakout Stridulum and its attendant EPs as well as 2011's Conatus. Each LP saw her advance from lo-fi bedroom recording to progressively polished, orchestral production, so it was fitting when she partnered with Australian avant-garde composer JG Thirwell to record neo-classical variations on her old material for last year's Versions. She's a performer who consistently thinks in terms of the bigger picture, and with her latest release, Taiga, Zola Jesus has gone full-blown panorama with an epic, wide-angle lens.

See also: Zola Jesus's Taiga: Antinatalism in the style of 2000s-era J. Lo

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