Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

On their debut LP Swear I’m Good at This, this New Paltz, N.Y., duo strike a winsome balance between sugary, sometimes plaintive vocals and serrated guitar riffage over galloping drums on catchy songs that sift through the tumult and confusion of young adulthood. Onstage, Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman add explosive energy: Luciano scarcely stands still, bouncing around the stage like she’s spring-loaded and pausing occasionally for leg kicks worthy of the Rockettes. The result is a communal catharsis that is upbeat, life-affirming and a hell of a lot of fun.

Eskimeaux’s OK is easily my most played album of the year, next to the Courtney Barnett record. There’s lighthearted, almost childlike beauty in the way Gabrielle Smith puts words to song. Here are OK’s first lines:

In my dreams you’re a bathtub running,
You are warm and tender,
And bubbling,
Oh, you are cold and bristling and struggling

As an adopted child, Smith discovered that her biological father is Tlingit Eskimo; she describes the -eaux suffix as “just a playful jumble of letters that represents the way I record — a confusing layering of sounds that somehow coalesce into something simple.”

Smith has performed at the Tiny Desk before: She’s part of a New York art collective that includes Told Slant, Small Wonder and Bellows, and Bellows played here not too long ago. Some of the players in those bands sing with Smith in her final song — one of my favorite songs of the year — called “I Admit I’m Scared,” which ends with a few perfectly chosen words:

And if I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out,
We could fly around the world
Or just get out of your parents’ house,

Set List
“Folly” 00:00
“A Hug Too Long” 02:42
“I Admit I’m Scared” 05:25

The Prettiots’ songs are winsome and clever, but most of all they’re honest and funny. Goodness knows pop music needs some clever fun.

The three women in The Prettiots — Kay Kasparhauser on ukulele and lead vocals, Rachel Trachtenburg from the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players on drums, and bassist Lulu Prat — share their love of everything from Law & Order to old-school girl groups like the Shangri-Las. Their song “Stabler,” performed here, is based on Kasparhauser’s infatuation with the Law & Order character Elliot Stabler.

“Boys (I Dated In High School)” is the Prettiots tune that first charmed me, thanks mainly to the perfect portrait its brainy rhymes paint:

Martin, that was your name,

I met you on the 1 train

You were super duper duper hot

On the 1 train

You said you were a painter

Mostly you were a waiter

A stoner and a skater

So I had to say later,

These are the boys that I dated in high school

I thought they were so nice

And I thought they were so cool

These are the boys that I dated in high school

They weren’t very nice

And they weren’t very cool

It’s the sort of music you’ll either adore or abhor; it’s hard to be neutral and you’ll know it quickly. For me, their appearance at the Tiny Desk totally made my day.

Set List

  • “Boys (I Dated In High School)”
  • “Stabler”
  • “Suicide Hotline”

the Wytches psych rock band member KRISTEN BELL performs a few songs Unplugged in a small sunny backyard at the SXSW festival