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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Merchandise - Music Hall of Williamsburg - 10/14

Categories: Last Night

all photos Lindsey Rhoades
Better Than: Seeing Morrissey live, probably

When Tampa, Florida-based post-punk outfit Merchandise released Children of Desire in 2012, it was not only a break out, but a break from the hardcore scene they'd grown up in. A lot of that shift was evident in their revamped sound, more indebted to new wave and pop influences, with crooner Carson Cox often compared to none other than Morrissey. Specifically, the lyrics from "Become What You Are" left little doubt that the band was tired of operating within the same old punk tropes. "The music started/I realized it was all a lie/The guitars were ringing out/Last year's punk," Cox sang, earnestly narrating his breakup with the entirety of the genre in the following verses.

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Iceage - Bowery Ballroom - 10/12

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Better Than: drinking 100 Euro wine

A wrinkled piece of blue paper lay wadded on the Bowery Ballroom stage in front of Iceage guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth's monitor, the setlist scrawled in the same handwriting that adorns the cover of the band's third studio album, Plowing Into the Field of Love. The fifth line down simply said "Country;" as shorthand for rockabilly-inflected lead single "The Lord's Favorite" it also said a lot about the kind of songwriting Iceage explores on their latest LP.

See also: How to Take a Roman Candle to the Face: Our Conversation With Iceage

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Charli XCX - Webster Hall - 10/7

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Santiago Felipe
Charli XCX
Better Than: Going to school.

It's been a while since we've been to a show that had the stipulation "16+," as if there'd actually be younger kids who would show up. Sometimes it's easy to forget, even in the wake of "I Love It" and "Fancy" and now "Boom Clap," that Charli XCX is a pop star that a lot of people know, and a lot of people love, teenaged pop fans and adult listeners who self-identify as "discerning" alike. That's always been the interesting tension with Charli--when True Romance came out last year, it felt like contemporary pop music with a New Wave gloss that allowed it to be claimed by the indie crowd. She's always seemed poised to be a bigger star, the process somehow feeling both sudden and slow-burn as she continued to gain notoriety with those guest spots. This was still a show in New York, though. From up front against the stage, you could hear the sort of high-pitched screaming you'd probably attribute to girls around the age of 16, but towards the back there were dozens of bearded dudes of varying age groups. The process of Charli XCX falling into one world or another--or, being able to keep one foot in both--is still one that appears to be unfolding.

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Ariel Pink - Baby's All Right - 10/2

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Michael Jackson Ariel Pink
Better Than: Bumping "Blurred Lines" but just as morally suspect

Ariel Pink is a controversial figure these days, and he absolutely knows it. While he used to catch flak for his crude recording techniques, inane lyrics, lackluster live appearances, and overtly nostalgic approach to assembling his brand of bizarre pop, all that changed with the release of 2010's Before Today. Discovered by Animal Collective years before, the influential indie act released his decidedly odd records on their Paw Tracks label to many a critical sneer, but Before Today and its lead single, "Round and Round," afforded Pink the first slivers of legitimacy that had long eluded him. Two years later, Mature Themes saw him double back on some of his quirkier vibes, but the record was met with mostly positive reception; it seemed like he was finally growing up.

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Tove Lo - Webster Hall - 10/1

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Tove Lo
Better Than: An all-night drug binge.

Pop music runs in Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson's blood. Better known by her stage name, Tove Lo, the Swedish-born singer has penned tracks for Icona Pop and Girls Aloud, and recently worked with Adam Lambert as part of powerhouse producer Max Martin's songwriting collective. But since releasing "Habits" last year, Tove Lo's own star has been on the rise and burning brightest. She's been featured in several hit collaborations, most notably Lucas Nord's "Run on Love"; a supporting slot on the upcoming Australian leg of Katy Perry's Prismatic World Tour should only cement her place as pop music's heir apparent. But Tove Lo rocks a specific brand that veers slightly from most other women in pop -- she paints herself as the hard-drinking, hard-drugging, DTF party girl, admitting the somewhat destructive nature of these preoccupations but celebrating them all the same. Whether the trope is real or imagined doesn't matter; her image gives her just enough edge to make her something of a guru among a hookup-culture demographic with many of the same proclivities.

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Brooklyn DIY Is Dead? Tell That to Glasslands and Famous Swords Collective

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Power Animal System w/ members of Maiden China
Better Than: Your typical Brooklyn DIY show

During his solo set last night at Glasslands, Adam Schatz took a moment to lead the audience in a collectively-sung cover of Funkadelic's "I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing," He repeated that line for the audience, as well as the one that follows: "When we get together, doin' our thing/In order to help each other/In order to help your brother." The crowd chanted these words, pausing briefly for Schatz's sax solo before enthusiastically taking up the mantle once again. This was a room full of people who believe in creative collaboration, and the sentiment was perfectly appropriate; it represented the evening's eclectic performers as well as creatives in the audience supporting each other to turn an already memorable night into something productive and transcendent.

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Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias - Madison Square Garden - 9/26

Categories: Last Night

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Credit: Esthela Lopez
Enrique Iglesias
Better Than: Derek Jeter's last game in Yankee Stadium.

For now, the year of the Super Tour is coming to a close, and what better encore to collaborative superstar tours than the absolute party that is a show headlined by both Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias? Though their approach to the co-headlining was more traditional than that of this summer's other Super Tours, with each playing one full, uninterrupted set rather than weaving together their songs and collaborations like Drake Vs. Lil Wayne or Eminem x Rihanna, or Jay and Bey, the respective time Madison Square Garden spent rapt with attention for each individual made the nearly three hour show fly by.

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The Drums - Rough Trade - 9/21

Categories: Last Night

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All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Better Than: Catching whiffs of patchouli-doused protestors at the Climate March.

After extensive touring in support of wildly successful sophomore record Portamento, it seemed as though the Drums were about to break up. Charismatic lead singer Jonny Pierce announced the impending release of his first solo album late last year, as did co-founding member Jacob Graham under the moniker Cascading Slopes. Everyone else, including the band's management, had parted ways. For an indie band with that much momentum, the radio silence said everything.

Pierce and Graham, it turns out, were more dedicated to keeping the Drums beating than they'd been willing to admit. They revealed that a third Drums album, Encyclopedia, would hit stores in September. NYC area fans had the chance to get their paws on the record a few days ahead of its release at the Williamsburg outpost of Rough Trade, and as though that weren't reward enough, the LP came with two wristbands to an in-store performance on Sunday afternoon.

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Sam Smith - United Palace Theatre - 9/18

Categories: Last Night
Better Than: Drunk dialing the person you're in love with.

United Palace Theatre is primarily a church that moonlights as a movie theatre and music venue. The entrance is devastatingly beautiful and overwhelming, making it the perfect host for Sam Smith's grandiose voice, earnest delivery and soulful tunes. In their red velvet seats, patrons clutched their hearts and raised their hands as if engaging in a new type of spiritual experience on a Thursday evening.

See also: Sam Smith SLAYED Saturday Night Live

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