Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lawrence Arabia

Still catching up on stuff that ran last week, which was weirdly overweighted with New Zealand baroque pop...anyway here's my review of Lawrence Arabia's Sparrow from Blurt.

Lawrence Arabia
The Sparrow
(Bella Union)

James Milne, a.k.a. Lawrence Arabia, is the pale sophisticate at New Zealand's robust, outdoorsy pop camp-out, setting fey, ironically distanced lyrics amid swooning strings and syncopated tango beats. The Sparrow, his third album as Lawrence Arabia, employs an entire string quartet, as well as occasional trombone, saxophone, clarinet and piano, to back him. His warbly, often-falsetto'd voice swoops over uneasily pretty arrangements, a slicked-back vaudevillian making sharp, unexpected observations.


Also, I did go see Magic Trick (Tim Cohen's new thing) and Sonny Smith last night, and would highly highly recommend this to anyone living in these cities:

08.14.12 - Somerville, MA - Johnny D's #
08.15.12 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwells #
08.16.12 - New York, NY - Mercury Lounge #
08.17.12 - Philadelphia, PA - PhilaMOCA #
08.18.12 - Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands #

Sonny, in particular, was a crazy man, removing his pants (it was hot) during "Teenage Thugs" and hurdling over metal folding chairs. He also did a bunch (okay maybe three) of the country songs from his latest albums and required the audience to pair off and country dance, so be warned...

Magic Trick was really good, too, a lot more rhythm-driven and hard-edged (I wrote down "Green Onions" somewhere in my notes, not sure which song it refers to, but there was a lot of great bass-and-drum action) than I remembered the record being. They struggled with the Flywheel's sound system a bit at first, but towards the end sounded about as tight as anything I've heard there. Good band, shares a drummer with Fresh & Onlys and a bass player with Sonny and the Sunsets, part of that crazy SF psychedelic pop scene. I was really there to interview Tim Cohen about Fresh & Onlys.

The opening band was Baby Barnyard, a local artist named Amanda Freeman, performing last night for the first time with a trio (herself, a stand-up bass player and drummer) and really very, very striking. Freeman has a soft, ethereal kind of Mazzy Star/Sunday-ish voice, but she plays guitar like Kurt Cobain...I'd say Scout Niblett for starters, maybe Circuit Des Yeux, except for a couple of very torchy, smouldery, almost trip-hoppy pieces, where the acoustic bass was just wonderful with her voice.

Anyway, she gave me a burner of songs without the band (I don't think they've recorded anything yet together) and there's some stuff on Soundcloud which is pretty good,too, in its own way, but not that close to what she was playing live.

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