The Mountain Goats, Garcia Peoples @ Webster Hall

The Mountain Goats, Garcia Peoples @ Webster Hall

The Mountain Goats at Webster Hall (photo by Edwina Hay)

 

Another year, another Mountain Goats album—and fans are nowhere near tired of them, nor should they be. John Darnielle’s finely tuned pen has never faltered, even as the band gets up there in years. The songs on their 21st studio album Bleed Out do all tread the same general ground—revenge fantasies conjured up from the depths of vintage action flicks—and if one song about that doesn’t compel you, then perhaps twelve of them is a hard sell. But Darnielle’s listeners have come along for a focused ride before, on albums like Goths or Beat The Champ or Tallahassee. Thus we trust Darnielle to find his footing, and indeed he has. Whether “Training Montage” becomes a cultural touchstone like “This Year” remains to be seen, but it doesn’t matter. Mountain Goats fans aren’t here for hits, we are here for Truth. No, not facts—I’m talking about Truth. We may not be out here exacting bloody revenge on our enemies, but we Understand it all the same.

 

It’s helpful that nearly every Mountain Goats album can be an entry point—there aren’t any I would classify as “difficult.” Some have rougher edges than others (especially in recording techniques), or song titles that send you to Wikipedia, but all wear their musical heart on their sleeve, and Bleed Out is no different. (It’s an interesting contrast to Darnielle’s novels, such as his latest Devil House, which was full of nuance and questions and frankly left me unsettled.) Mostly filled with mid-to-uptempo grooves interspersed with legitimate bangers like “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome,” it’s a seriously catchy record, with lyrical musings punctuated by chantable hooks—in other words, it’s a Mountain Goats record, and a damned good one at that.

 

Revenge isn’t a new concept in Mountain Goats songs, either: only look to “The Day The Aliens Came.” But The Sunset Tree recordings are well known as being very personal to Darnielle, and although many listeners have found solace in them and identify with his childhood experiences, there will always remain at least a hint of voyeurism for me in those songs. Bleed Out instead centers anthems with characters pulled from the annals of pop culture, and it cuts deep in its simplicity, with many of the songs hitting full throttle like a punch to the face. I’ve seen some shock expressed that this band could rock quite so hard, and to the doubters I would point out such hard-hitting songs as “See America Right” and “Lovecraft In Brooklyn” in their back catalog. But if any naysayers exist, they were absolutely silenced by the performance given this past Wednesday 8/31 at Webster Hall.

 

The Mountain Goats have only grown more popular as time goes by, and it’s well earned. I’ve seen them in tiny venues that I myself played; I’ve seen them in mid-size rooms. I’ve seen them enough that I genuinely cannot remember each venue’s name. But the crowd never fails to wear their hearts on their sleeves as well, and even in such a large space (the capacity at Webster is around 1400 people but it always feels far bigger to me) it seemed just as intimate as the first time I saw them over a decade ago. Mountain Goats shows are a dialogue between Darnielle and his audience, with the rest of the band as facilitators.

 

Mountain Goats performing

The Mountain Goats (photo by Edwina Hay)

 

The energy in the room was palpable from the very first song, “Aulon Raid,” and continued to electrify the crowd through songs both new and old. The Mountain Goats have a famously massive array of songs to choose from when touring—over 600, from a glance at their discography and my hard drive—and older tracks like “Minnesota” from Full Force Galesburg sprang to life with the full band treatment, silencing critics who may find older lo-fi records to be superior. They are in my opinion simply different. While some bands who have been active since the 90’s rely heavily on older material, The Mountain Goats always present a well-versed mix, and the audience seemed to know the words to the Bleed Out tracks just as well as the ubiquitous “This Year,” despite the recentness of the release. We all have our old favorites of course, and high points for me in the set were “Estate Sale Sign,” “The Diaz Brothers” (on which I hurt myself headbanging), and “Alpha In Tauris,” which came during the familiar solo acoustic portion of the set. 

 

Yet although the Mountain Goats have been Darnielle’s since the inception, the band he has gathered around him are no mere afterthought, and when they returned to the stage for the final set of songs they were greeted with rapturous applause. Truly the Mountain Goats are a four-piece now for real, made up of longtime collaborators Peter Hughes on bass, Jon Wurster on drums, and Matt Douglas on keys, guitar, and saxophone, and I can’t imagine the lineup getting any better. 

 

Darnielle is notorious for his hilarious and poignant banter between songs, and his wit was no less sharp at this performance, from introducing “Before I Got There” (“this song has less sex but it has more dead bodies, so it’s kind of a wash”) to a commentary on divorce against the backdrop of a jazzy intro to “No Children” (“spite attains the speed of sound”) and a shoutout to Celtic Frost. It was also an absolute treat to see Darnielle pick up an electric guitar—he’s always shredded on the acoustic, but this was like a trip to a mirror universe, only one with less evil and more rock.

 

The last song on Bleed Out closed the night out here as well, and the title track was as cathartic live as the surrender declared by the protagonist in the lyrics: “I’m gonna head into the darkness / I’m gonna head into the light.” There is indeed both light and darkness in the Mountain Goats, beauty and tragedy and the unfathomable mixture of the two, and after years of seeing them I’m convinced it’s just as potent to share that with each other before the stage like supplicants as it it to experience it alone, hands clutched over headphones. They’ve been there for us before, and they’ve proven they will be there for us again.

 

(Speaking of being there for each other, shoutout to the tall dude in the balcony who moved so myself and another short person could see. May you get tickets to every show you ever want.)

 

Mountain Goats performing

The Mountain Goats (photo by Edwina Hay)

 

The opening band for this show was Garcia Peoples, who offered up chill music that was jammy without being boring. They were a good choice for opener as they kept a nice vibe going that kept the crowd primed but didn’t wear them out. Of particular note was the very intuitive drumming, which lifted the songs along rather than taking over the spacey feel. They will be at Webster Hall again on October 3rd, opening for Tinariwen.

 

Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos and pics of the show (photos by Edwina Hay)

 

Setlist: Aulon Raid, Make You Suffer, Minnesota, Mark on You, Estate Sale Sign, Extraction Point, Tidal Wave, Liza Forever Minnelli (with Matt Douglas)**, Alpha in Tauris**, Feed This End**, I’ve Got the Sex**, Before I Got There, The Diaz Brothers, Guys on Every Corner, Choked Out, Bones Don’t Rust, No Children, Training Montage Encore: The Slow Parts on Death Metal Albums, Palmcorder Yajna, Up the Wolves, This Year, Bleed Out

** performed Solo

 

 

GARCIA PEOPLES

Garcia Peoples performing

Garcia Peoples performing

 

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Mountain Goats performing

Jane Doe Ensemble- The Corruption of What Cheer?

Jane Doe Ensemble- The Corruption of What Cheer?

Jane Doe EnsembleThe Corruption of What Cheer? (cover art by Gabriella Moreno)

 

Efrem Czajkowski, Wren Krisztin, and Aaron Batley (aka The Janes)—have been together since 2016. The Corruption of What Cheer?, their new full length, is a culmination of their creativity and hard work over these last two tumultuous years.

 

In 2020 they released the single Pink Liquor/Respect, recorded in 2018. Both tracks have found their way onto their new full length LP in fresh forms. “Pink Liquor” is the perfect leadoff track, demonstrating much of what makes the band so compelling and unique. An ominous song, the swirling guitars and synths coupled with sharp percussion involve a dark carnival atmosphere. There are many interlocking parts here that fit a lot of complexity into only 4 and a half minutes.

 

This sets the listener up for much of what they can expect through most of the record, although there are quieter moments as well (the re-recorded “Respect”) and some songs with a genuinely danceable beat (“Can You Ever.”) The Janes make great use of their harmonized vocals, especially on songs like “Miscommunication Department.” Sometimes the vocals are very present in the mix, at other times moved into the background for a truly 3D quality.

 

Jane Doe Ensemble black and white portrait

Jane Doe Ensemble (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

Multi-instrumentalist experimental music can easily go in the direction of jam band meanderings. (Which isn’t to put down jam bands, but it’s nice to know if that’s coming or not.) Yet even on the longest track “What is Left is Also What is Right,” which flirts with jamminess, the music seems to be moving towards a deliberate destination.

 

The Corruption of What Cheer? truly feels like a collaborative effort, and it’s easy to tell the members are having fun even while they take their craft seriously. According to the band, the album was the result of “enthusiastic, zealous single-day recording followed by months of loving, careful bedroom mixing” and it shows. 

 

 

Watch their latest video here and see several more on the band’s YouTube, or you can look them up on Instagram and Twitter. Jane Doe Ensemble are a compelling live act and they will be at Pete’s Candy Store on September 3rd and Hart Bar on September 10th.

 

 

Leathered- A Reckoning

Leathered- A Reckoning

Leathered A Reckoning

 

From the very first track, A Reckoning, the debut album from Leathered, arrives with understated swagger, like an outlaw emerging from a cave in the desert, strolling through the shadows. With enough chorus to be shoegaze and enough twang to be country, Leathered straddle the line between genres to present their own unique vision. Self-described as “noirish, psychic rock & roll” on their Instagram, the Brooklyn band consists of Amanda B. Jun on vocals and guitars, Edward Anthony on bass, and Carter Logan on drums. 

 

“It’s My Time” is a perfect lead track, as it showcases much of what makes this album great: spooky dessicated guitar full of reverb and jangle, thick bass that bounces along smoothly, with crisp drums holding everything together. There are the occasional dissonant guitar notes to add a bit more tension. Jun’s vocals are on the softer side but straightforward rather than breathy, and mix exceedingly well into the music. A band statement on their Bandcamp page states that A Reckoning is Leathered’s “aural effort to rebuke the banality of evil, the seductive appeal of apathy” and that the songs “appeal to one’s innate capacity for lightness and joy.” Lyrically, that is evident here from lines like “There’s a darkness breaking into my soul / and it’s taking its toll, I can feel its pull / I need to tune in, hear the words of my sister, sing the songs of my mother’s eternal embrace / we gotta break in, wake up, break down / I know that it’s my time.”

 

 

Some tracks are more pop tinged, like “Hours,” while others veer into the country side of things, like “Strawman.” “Prayer” finds itself in more aggressive territory, with biting percussion from Logan (who is also a member of SQÜRL, a band I’ve always loved for their atmospheric qualities, especially on the soundtrack to Only Lovers Left Alive). The rollicking “Superstition” is downright sexy, and songs like “Bones Of The Dead” (“I hear the bones of the dead dancing on my grave / I see the setting of the sun counting down my days”) guarantee the goth cowboys among us a good time.

 

Fans of Nick Cave, The Cramps, or Dum Dum Girls will find a lot to love on this album. I imagine jamming this while driving across a dark desert, sunglasses on at night, dressed all in black with a cigarette and a guitar instead of a shiny pistol.

 

Leathered performing

Leathered performing

Leathered performing

Leathered in 2021 (photos by Kate Hoos)

 

A Reckoning was self released and is available on all major streaming platforms. Leathered will be performing at Our Wicked Lady with Power Pose, The Roulettes, and Automatom on August 31st. You can find them on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Instagram.

 

 

 

The Shining Hours- Wasted Time

The Shining Hours- Wasted Time

The Shining Hours Wasted Time

 

The Shining Hours may have titled their new EP Wasted Time, but the new Brooklyn band hasn’t been wasting time at all, playing a spate of shows across New York City this summer. The EP is short in tracks, including only three, but the tracks themselves clock in from three to six minutes and give a good introduction to the bands’ overall sound, which (for me at least) rides the line between classic midwestern and Brooklyn indie.

 

The first track, “Retrograde,” is an energetic rock song that even touches power pop territory (in a good way). This is slightly deceptive; the second and third tracks, “Not Far Away” and “Diamonds In The Dirt” tread into more familiar indie soundscapes, ala’ The Replacements or Superchunk. The basslines of Fernando Pascual and rhythms of drummer Bill Peluso smoothly carry the songs along, as they glide rather than push forward, and allow the guitar stylings of lead guitarist Joe Peters to ride along top. Singer and rhythm guitarist David Tsai has a voice perfectly suited for this kind of music, strong enough to be forward but very melodic. The lyrics are introspective, from lines like “It’s hard to forget, my memory counts every inch” and “I can’t seem to be open today, thinking of you and my mind chooses not to stay.” 

 

While Wasted Time is a bite-sized treat, it piques curiosity for a full length release in the future. In the meantime, you can catch The Shining Hours at Our Wicked Lady on August 9th, or Rockwood Music Hall on August 21st. Find them on Instagram, Soundcloud or Spotify.

 

 

 

Minaxi- Lazuleen

Minaxi- Lazuleen

Minaxi Lazuleen

 

Brooklyn-based band Minaxi certainly have been prolific over the last few years, releasing a number of EPs as well as their 2020 debut album Khwab. This June finds multi-instrumentalists Shrenik Ganatra and Liam Christian and drummer Steve Carlin back in familiar territory, moving through shoegaze, psych, rock, and Indian classical music on their sophomore LP Lazuleen.

 

The album kicks off with bright, shimmering guitars on “Hey,” bringing a thread of optimism right from the jump (“hey look outside it’s such a beautiful day / I – I’m at your doorstep calling your name”) before moving on to buzzing guitars and quiet-loud dynamics on “Mother.” Minaxi often go for the ethereal side of shoegaze rather than the total wall of sound, but they do beef it up in places, such as on “Adore” and “Manchala,” a track sung in Hindi, bringing to mind Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. Dare I say there is a bit of Sunny Day Real Estate in here as well? (“Adore” also features bass and vocals from Theadora Curtis of Climates, who sings on “Alive I Feel When I Look In Your Eyes,” too.) In particular, the drum production is crisp and well-mixed; the band notes they were recorded live with no metronome as to capture their live energy.

 

Minaxi press photo

Minaxi (photo by Mark Laubenheimer)

 

The lyrics, both in English and Hindi, are lilting and poetic, as on the track “Reese:” “fiery ropes / in the snowfields / wrapped around / the glacial sheets / dance away / in the winter wind.” There is a lot of beauty and love here, but also doubt, longing and loneliness. Lazuleen is in fact a bit of a concept album, as the songs are (according to the group’s Bandcamp) “addressed to the oceans, skies, trees and winds through the lens of the lazuli bunting, the blue songbird.” The album ends on an upbeat note, with things coming full circle in “August,” when “it feels like once again joy is in the air.”

 

(On a personal note, THANK YOU to Minaxi for including the lyrics on their Bandcamp page, seriously that makes not only my job of reviewing easier, but enhances the pleasure of listening for everyone! More bands should do this!)

 

Lazuleen as an LP is ten tracks long, available from Bandcamp on vinyl, cassette, and digital; all versions include a download that also features a number of b-sides and remixes, featuring a 13 min ambient-leaning remix of “The Deep Blue Sea Conveys Your Love”  from Slowdive drummer Simon Scott. (Of the extra tracks, I was a fan of “Phir Manchala,” sung in Hindi and absolutely groovy.)

 

Minaxi can be found on Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook. You can catch their release show at Elsewhere on July 6 with Phantom Wave and Drel.