The Vaselines Bring Catchy Hooks and Saucy Innuendo to the Bell House

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Photo by Karen Gardiner for the Village Voice
The Vaselines on January 16 at the Bell House
Better Than: Listening to any other couple bicker for an hour straight.

On Friday night at a packed Bell House (149 7th Street) in Gowanus, Scottish indie royalty the Vaselines crashed through more than twenty songs in an hour and a half — impressive for a band with only three full albums to its name, one that tends to end each song with long and increasingly awkward details about the past sexual relationship between its two members, Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly.

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Savages Debut New Music During the First of Nine New York City Shows

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All photos by Rob Menzer for the Village Voice
Jehnny Beth delivers something pure...something new.
Better than: Any other punk band's "bluesy" phase

Savages is a band of manifestos. Since the London art-punk outfit first exploded onto the international scene with 2013's punishing debut, Silence Yourself, they have followed the rules you learn in your first essay-writing class: "Tell us what you're going to tell us, tell us, and then sum up what you've told us." With that in mind, the first lyrics sung by Jehnny Beth during the first song on the first night of their nine-show New York City residency were quite telling:

"I need something new in my ears...I need something pure...I need something new," Beth wailed before launching, along with bandmates Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton, into an hour-long set whose first half comprised all new material.

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Run, D.M.C., and LL Cool J Bring Christmas and Larry Smith Tributes to Brooklyn

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Hot 97
LL Cool J, noted bell-rocker.
Better Than: That Christmas episode of All That with Run-D.M.C.

Friday night's Christmas in Brooklyn show at the Barclays Center (presented by Hot 97 and WBLS) was a fulfilled Christmas wishlist of a show: Run and D.M.C. shared a stage in New York for the first time in more than a decade, and LL Cool J seemingly condensed an entire music festival into a single set.

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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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