Monthly Archives: January 2009

New Show: Bay Area Live

This is the first in a new monthly show on BTR called Bay Area Live. I’m looking forward to this year’s Scatterbrain Jamboree, an annual local music festival that donates proceeds to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. It’s being held next month, so in the meantime I thought I’d dig up some performances from last year’s Jamboree to whet everyone’s appetite. But first, I captured a raucous show by Battlehooch at San Francisco’s legendary Bottom of the Hill that I thought I’d share.

Scatterbrain Jamboree –
February 20 & 21, 2009 – Thee Parkside – San Francisco, California

00:00 Bay Area Live!
00:44 Live at Bottom of the Hill 01/23/09 – Battlehooch
20:08 Bay Area Live!
20:17 Live at Thee Parkside, Scatterbrain Jamboree 02/23/08 – Top Critters
32:01 Bay Area Live!
32:13 Live at Thee Parkside, Scatterbrain Jamboree 02/22/08 – Pidgeon
47:26 Bay Area Live!
47:33 Live at Thee Parkside, Scatterbrain Jamboree 02/22/08 – Schande
59:19 Thanks for listening to Bay Area Live! Tune in next month!

Top Critters
Mar. 18 – The Stork Club – Oakland, CA
Mar. 19 – Eagle Tavern – San Francisco, CA
Mar. 20 – Monstros Pizza – Chico, CA
Mar. 21 – The Know Bar – Portland, OR
Mar. 22 – The Comet – Seattle, WA
Mar. 25 – The Blu Lagoon – Santa Cruz, CA
Mar. 26 – The Doll Hut – Anaheim, CA
Mar. 27 – Mr. T’s Bowl & Club – Los Angeles, CA
Mar. 28 – Silverlake Lounge – Los Angeles, CA
Apr. 17 – Hemlock Tavern – San Francisco, CA
Apr. 25 – Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA

Album Review: M. Ward’s Hold Time

M .Ward

Hold Time

For those who don’t already know, Matt Ward (or M. Ward) is preparing to release his new album, Hold Time on February 17th. The Portland native is known primarily for his star-studded outfit, She and Him. Ward plays alongside Zooey Deschanel, the half-musician half-actress who among other things recently took part in the latest Jim Carrey project, Yes Man. Meanwhile, Ward was spending his time making sweet warm melodies and ultimately shifting the business of releasing music.

Hold Time
is a collection of Ward’s subtle and original head-in-the-clouds folk-style melodies, though a bit of room was saved for classics like “Rave On” and “Oh Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson. Stand-out tracks include “Jailbird,” a sweet rockabilly rhythm, “Hold Time,” a bluesy dream – something of a rare Lynchian cathartic moment, and “Outro,” a distorted lonesome instrumental that could have played around the scene of any American cowboy as long as it was his last. In these and other tracks Ward surely channels a few of his heroes, primarily Roy Orbison with his twelve-bar rhythm and shining mysterious reverb. But as talented and inspired as he is, Ward still managed to feature Deschanel, Lucinda WIlliams and The Decemberists’ Rachel Blumberg, thereby making an already good album great.

However, there’s a greater significance here. Since January 12th, the album has been streaming in its entirety on the NPR website for everyone to hear. It is difficult to say how something like this should affect sales, but it does allow most  consumers who already have the ability to hijack the album to purchase the album based almost purely on their desire to support Ward and his music. It is almost in the same vein as the most recent Radiohead album, save for the millions and millions of dollars they already had before they made such a decision. In a world where “promotional tool” is beginning to sound more like “money pit,” could revenue from an album depend on volunteers? And what if any artists could survive in such a model? Well, worry about that later. Listen to Hold Time and love it.

-Ike Stonberg

Wednesday is for Comedy

The weather might be total crap here in NYC, but we’re trying to cheer  you up here on BTR. Today we have two hilarious shows- our weekly edition of Drunken Politics, in which Jamie and Allison recount the inauguration, and fill you in on what you didn’t see.  Also stay tuned for totally real FoxNews headlines, bi-partisan discourse, chatting about the  Guantanamo closure, and much more!

Then stick around for our monthly broadcast of Nights of Our Lives– the show was recorded back in December at the UCB Theater. Each of the comedians had chosen a favorite tale from 2008, so get ready for one of the best hours of storytelling you’ve heard on BTR yet. The talented lineup included host David Martin, Bobby Moyinihan, John Flynn, Chris Gethard and Noah Garfinkel. Tales of drag queens, stripping, a possible herpes outbreak, the notion that Andy Kauffman is still alive, and Saturday Night Live will be discussed. We also establish that Michael Phelps probably does not listen to BreakThru Radio.

Artist of the Week: The Welcome Wagon

When I was younger, the only things that kept me interested at church were the crispy wafers my mom shared with me (since I refused to attend Sunday school) and the part at the end where everyone shakes hands and hugs those around them. Food and pinched cheeks were enough to keep me entertained, but if The Welcome Wagon were singing their ethereal hymns I believe I would have changed into a hallelujah chiming choirboy.

The latest project from Asthmatic Kitty features a married couple, the Reverend Thomas Vito Aituo and his wife Monique, who belt out heartwarming tunes about God, Jesus, and the love surrounding them. It sounds polarizing, but once you give their debut album a twirl, Welcome To The Welcome Wagon, you’ll hear music far from the gospel compilations sold on TV next to Ron Popeil contraptions. Their refreshing sound is due in part to the guiding hand of Sufjan Stevens, whose influence is immediate once you hear the twinkling piano touches, grandiose choruses, and horns as moving as Army bugle wake-up calls. Even with Sufjan’s statesmanship shining through, at the heart of every song is the “simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.”

Vito, who was a self-described agnostic, experienced a spiritual awakening at the age of 20 that drove him to enroll at Princeton Theological Seminary and study to be an ordained minister. He is currently the senior pastor of a church he planted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2005, the Resurrection Presbyterian Church. His wife Monique was raised on a farm in the same small town as Vito. She moved to New York to study art at Columbia University, then dabbled as a pre-school teacher and craftmaker for Martha Stewart. Music was brought into their household when Vito bought a guitar with the simple desire to sing hymns with his family. Without having any previous training and not knowing how to read notes, the two worked around it by making up new tunes to old words.

This living room dynamic transfers well onto the album with songs like “Up On A Mountain,” which features the couple singing in tandem, until they are joined by a call and response chorus and a horn section impersonator. A more Sufanesque track would be the erupting choruses and  bluesy guitar solos of “I Am A Stranger.” Those touches fade into the background to make way for Vito’s gentle voice, and eventually they all merge at the end forming a mosh pit of melodies. The lyrics are deeply entrenched in Christian culture, but it never feels overly pushy or preachy. It just sounds like the sincere words of an honest couple singing their beliefs into the sky.


Show Review: Matt & Kim Record Release Party @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Over the course of the evening at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Matt (the keyboard-playing half of Matt and Kim) expressed over and over how he hoped 2009 wouldn’t be a year of change exactly, but of moving forward. It was a big night for the group, and this mantra is a great summary of both the band’s new cd and their rising fame. In the same week that President Obama was inaugurated, Matt and Kim released their sophomore effort, Grand, and played a sold-out show to their hometown of Brooklyn. Only four years ago they were playing in lofts and warehouses to almost no one.

On a purely musical level, the show was nothing to write home about. The set had no arc. They played their show-stopper “Yea Yeah” somewhere in the first third and then played their brand new single (for the first time ever live), “Daylight,” third to last. It had absolutely no rise or fall at all. Kim is a good drummer and I don’t want to suggest otherwise, but the whole thing was sloppy and directionless. I honestly think they were so excited about everything that was going on they didn’t have too much time to concentrate on the music. Plus, having a great set isn’t exactly what makes or breaks a Matt and Kim show.

What made the show a success (which it definitely was, despite my nitpicking) was the general feeling in the air. Matt and Kim’s music is an incredibly youthful indie-punk. It’s fun and entirely accessible. Matt’s whiny voice is not all that different from some of the pop-punk/emo you hear on the radio. Plus, it’s great to mosh to, which is a rare opportunity for a lot of teenagers these days. In other words, Matt and Kim = 18-year-old heaven. This certainly speaks to the age of the crowd. I was probably the oldest person in my near vicinity (no one else had on a drink wristband as far as I could see) and I’m 22. Yeah. Exactly.

The youthful vibe last night translated into something wonderful. Sometimes when a crowd is heavily skewed towards the younger side, things can go bad quickly. Someone inevitably gets too drunk, some pint-sized couple won’t stop publicly displaying their affection, or a tipsy fraternity dude needs to learn that you don’t need to push everyone during the slow songs, too. Last night, however, the youthful vibe made the whole show seem genuinely enthusiastic, a refreshing break from the pretentious posturing that can be the norm at events in Brooklyn. This was in no small part due to the fact that Matt and Kim are just straight-up amazing people. They pour all of their enthusiasm into their songs and their performances. The love in the room for them was palpable. The crowd was buzzing with warmth and understated appreciation, an emotion that felt both deeper and more sincere than typical fandom exuded at concerts. If there’s one thing I walked away from this show with, it’s that Matt and Kim are local heroes because they truly love what they do. They pointed a camera at the audience and projected the image onto the stage wall because they wanted to make sure that we knew the show wasn’t just about them, it was about the experience we all had together.

The local Brooklyn aspect of the show was key. Brooklyn is such a hegemonic idea of a place for indie rock bands to come from these days that it’s almost a throw-away. But everything, from Matt’s constant thank-yous and reminders that they loved playing in every loft and warehouse to Kim’s “Brooklyn” t-shirt, reiterated the fact that they are proud to be from Brooklyn. Most bands move to the borough to be part of a scene and find fame. Matt and Kim have made Brooklyn their home, and the local love that filled the room last night was rare and impressive. The roster of Brooklyn acts that performed before the dou – NinjaSonik, Spank Rock, and the delightfully whimsical Rude Mechanical Orchestra – clearly all genuinely loved Matt and Kim, as well.

All of this relates back to Matt and Kim’s new album Grand. As Matt repeated throughout the evening, he loves his life right now and thus wants to focus on moving forward, not just change. When you’re a band like Matt and Kim, it could be easy to get stuck writing the same songs over and over and tread in a swamp of poppy mediocrity. It would also be too easy to completely change their sound. Instead, Grand finds the duo maturing and evolving- a very pleasant surprise and a difficult thing for a punk twosome to accomplish. The two stand-out tracks, “Daylight” and “Good ‘Ol Fashioned Nightmare,” are far more textured and subtle than any tracks on their debut album, but they don’t sacrifice any of that signature Matt and Kim sound.

I’m glad that Matt and Kim were true to themselves both at their exuberant show last night and on their new album. Goodness and warmth exude from them, and if they keep following their guts, they should continue to gain fans for years to come.


DJ Wynn’s 2009 Album Preview

Now that Animal Collective has made it easy on list makers for 2009, we can just tip-toe our way through these new releases without any pressure of building hype or pretense. Here are a few first quarter releases that BTR can’t wait to get it’s mitts on:

Jan. 19 = Squarepusher

Numbers Lucent EP
(Warp) [UK Release]

We don’t have to wait long for new material from Tom Jenkison, more popularly known as beat breaker Squarepusher. Chasing the heels of Just A Souvenir is a six track EP called Numbers Lucent, which is allegedly inspired by his heritage.

Jan 27 = RZA

Afro Samurai: The Resurrection (Wu Music Group)

If you watched the first violent samurai epic starring Sam Jackson, you should know how perfectly hip-hop goes with swordplay. Just imagine the sound of Adult Swim’s short music bumps mashed with the musical equivalent of a fat blunt, and you should get the idea.

Mar. 10 = Handsome Furs

Face Control (Sub Pop)

The second album from the married duo of Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade guitarist) and Alexei Perry (short-story writer) was recorded at Mount Zoomer, which also happens to be the title of the latest Wolf Parade album. “Face Control” is a term they picked up while touring through Eastern Europe, which refers to the power held by club bouncers.

Mexican Institute of Sound

Soy Sauce [Nacional]

Instituto Mexicano del Sonido’s third effort is said to have a drunken mariachi version of “Bittersweet Symphony” that has rearranged lyrics expressing his fondness for mole (the sauce, not the tunneler). It would also be safe to assume that this album will be filled to the brim with Latin funk and chopped up horn samples.

Sometime in March = Arcade Fire

Miroir Noir DVD (Merge)

Already out on Digital release, Miroir Noir is a Vincent Moon production documenting the band’s 2007 tour in support of Neon Bible. There are very few full songs in the film, but the emphasis seems to be more on the raw energy of a moment never to be replicated than another reproduction of a song you have already heard.

TBA = Grizzly Bear

TBA (Warp)

With new tracks already making the rounds on the late night (the ethereal piano skipper “Two Weeks” on Letterman) and festival circuits (a jagged strummer with sky high vocals called  “Fine For Now” at All Points West), these furry Brooklyners have fans and newbies rabidly chasing after their untitled honey.

April 7 = Junior Boys

Begone Dull Care

One of the Junior Boys (Matthew Didemus) recently relocated to Berlin while the other (Jeremy Greenspan) remains hunkered down in Ontario. Usually new projects emerge from gaps like this, but the electro dream weavers decided to go the Postal Service route to piece together their third album. They’ve already scheduled a week full of European shows planned for early March.

BTR Live Studio: Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers

Today you’ll hear an in studio performance from Tony Dekker of Toronto band Great Lake Swimmers. The band’s eagerly anticipated fourth album Lost Channels will be released on March 31st, in conjunction with a national tour. The band got an early start on their tour, playing several January shows on the east coast. We managed to snag Tony Dekker while he was in town for a show at The Bell House. He performs acoustic live versions of GLS songs new and old!

I’d like to add that I have spent many an afternoon dreaming in Central Park with Great Lake Swimmers in my earphones. We’re seriously talking soundtrack-of-life here. Tony even played my favorite song – Various Stages.  Enjoy!

– Maia

1/29 @ State Theater – Kalamazoo, MI

1/30 @ Locals Only – Indianapolis, IN

1/31 @ Foellinger Auditorium – Champaign, IL

Related Links:


Drunken Politics on BTR

It’s the very first episode of Drunken Politics since Obama took office!  Allison and Jamie discuss President Obama’s inauguration, the return of 24, and Gaza happenings.  All right here on Drunken Politics on BreakThru Radio.

BTR Live Studio: Motel Motel

On this wonderful day in the world, we’re bringing you an in studio performance from the fantastic MOTEL MOTEL. Their album New Denver was named the top debut of 2008 by New York Press. Head over to Southpaw on February 13th to catch them at the BAM Sounds Like Brooklyn Festival!

Artist of the Week: Antony & The Johnsons

Every so many years, an artist (a musician in this case) comes along that distinguishes themselves from the rest. One may not be able to fathom this particular person’s musical abilities, but there are few and far between that may share their talent. We, as listeners or fans, may not be able to comprehend the beauty and capacity that the artist has because of their extreme talent. In this particular case, I am speaking of Antony Hegarty, best known as the brains and vocalist behind the New York City based outfit Antony and the Johnsons.

Hegarty was born in Sussex, England in 1971. His family later relocated to California  in 1981 when he was just ten years old. At the young age of 19, Antony moved to New York City to attend The Experimental Theatre Wing of NYU, a program that prepares students to make their own work and to collaborate with experimental and mainstream theatre artists. During the Summer of 1992, Antony founded the Blacklips Performance Cult with Johanna Constantine and Psychotic Eve. The troupe was an avant garde drag performance outfit that grew to 15 members in a very short amount of time. They performed for three years together, ending in 1995.  It was with this troupe that Antony started to gain attention for his voice. He performed songs with the Blacklips such as “Cripple and the Starfish” and “Blue Angel” which later were released on Antony and the Johnsons 1998 self-titled debut. The album was later re-released by the Bloomington, Indiana-based indie label, Secretly Canadian.

The Johnsons second full length album, I Am a Bird Now, was released in February of 2005. The album won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, a music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom or Ireland. Several music critics did not agree that the band deserved the award as Antony was British but the band was based in America. The album helped  Antony and the Johnson’s to gain a wider audience and more mainstream attention.

I Am a Bird Now featured an all star cast of musicians including Devendra Banhart, Boy George (a musical hero of Antony’s from his youth), Julia Kent (formerly of Rasputina), Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright and Joan Wasser of Joan as Policewoman, just to name a few. The album explored Antony’s sexuality and transgender life. He has publicly declared that he would rather be considered trans-gender versus gay. Tracks like, “My Lady Story” (My lady story/ Is one of annihilation/ My lady story/ Is one of breast amputation), “For Today I Am a Boy” (One day I’ll grow up/ I’ll be a beautiful woman/ One day I’ll grow up/  I’ll be a beautiful girl/ But for today I am a child/ For today I am a boy) and “Bird Gerhl” (Cause I’m a bird girl/ And the bird girls go to heaven/ I’m a bird girl/ And the bird girls can fly ) explore these subjects about his life. The album was a strong, personal piece that boasted 10 powerful songs. It was this piece of work that gave Antony a pathway into his fan’s hearts. It also left his fans earnestly waiting for and wanting a follow up.

Fast forward to January 2009. The newest work of Antony Hegarty and his band The Johnson’s is The Crying Light. As with any follow up to a brilliant piece of work, The Crying Light is easier to criticize when compared to I Am a Bird Now. If you can ignore Antony’s voice (even if his vocals are one of the most important attributes to his music) the arrangements are very well done and they support his voice every so delicately. I believe this album has more depth – it is not as easy to read between the lines and the lyrics as in his previous work. There is an obvious air of growth that is captured on The Crying Light, one that may not be noticed upon first listen to this beautiful piece of art. As it takes time to grow and develop a taste, you will also notice each song growing and developing in presence with each listen. A more mature and confident Antony Hegarty appears on this album, the songs are less about longing and sadness and more about personal experience and maturation. There are subtle background percussive sounds, vocals and strings that magically appear through the album, making it very dream-like. Each song is different in tone, texture and mood. The Crying Light proves to be a brilliant follow-up to I am a Bird Now. After the first listen I am sure fans of Antony will agree.

Fans of Antony and the Johnsons must see them live. It is truly an amazing experience. Starting Febuary 2nd, the band will be going on tour through selected parts of the United States, then on to Europe for an extensive run. The current lineup of musicians consists of Julia Kent, Maxim Moston, Jeff Langston, Rob Moose, Parker Kindred, Thomas Bartlett, Kevin Barker and Doug Wieselman.



Feb 2 2009 at Keswick Theatre – Philadelphia, PA
Feb 3 2009 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue – Washington, DC
Feb 4 2009 at Southern Theatre – Columbus, OH
Feb 7 2009 at Big Ears Festival – Knoxville, TN
Feb 8 2009 at Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
Feb 12 2009 at Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
Feb 13 2009 at Pabst Theatre -Milwaukee, WI
Feb 14 2009 at Pantages Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
Feb 17 2009 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Toronto, Ontario
Feb 19 2009 at Town Hall – New York, New NY
Feb 20 2009 at Town Hall – New York, NY
Feb 22 2009 at Berklee Performance Center – Boston, MA
Feb 24 2009 at Nob Hill Masonic Center – San Francisco, CA
Feb 27 2009 at The Vogue Theatre – Vancouver, British Columbia
Feb 28 2009 at Moore Theatre – Seattle, WA
Mar 15 2009 at Griedhallen – Bergen, Norway
Mar 17 2009 at Sentrum Scene – Oslo, Norway