I caught the Austin band Sweet Spirit by accident at last year’s SXSW—I had dropped into an early-morning show by Sharkmuffin, and got caught up in the crawfish boil happening out back. On stage was a very large group of people wielding both electric and wind instruments, wearing eclectic outfits, looking like a white Sly and the Family Stone. The weird thing was that they kind of sounded like that, too. My notes are full of question marks: “some wild giant band, a 9- or 10-piece,” “horns, serious instrumentation,” a track that went from nothing, with quiet vocals “to slamming, with giant vocals/horns chord,” and a “drama queen” for a front-woman. “Arcade Fire? Pop? WTF?” What the foxtrot, indeed—what I didn’t know is that Brit Daniel of Spoon had already discovered Sweet Spirit, and they had landed the SXSW gig without even a record to promote. They then toured with Spoon and were quickly going from unknown to notorious.
Posts by Bradley Spinelli:
We live in a truly bizarre time. Without getting into politics, isn’t it weird enough that O.J. Simpson’s ’90s saga crushed the critics as both a documentary and a primetime drama?—and that the riptide beneath the drama owes more to misogyny than to race? Time travelers from the ’90s would be shocked by what happened to the Kardashian family, yet might note that the attitudes towards women is at about the same temperature as it was back then—only way more trendy. That’s the bizarro-world twist: It’s trendy to talk about it, trendy to protest against it, and—even more upside-down—it’s trendy, in certain circles, to say that “grabbing them by the pussy” is no big deal. Time travelers from the ‘70s are laughing at us.
Who needs another rock band? Well, pretty much everybody, by the look of it—they just keep popping up in Brooklyn, the “Brooklyn sound” shows no sign of fading, and the kids moving here for college and starting bands show no sign of cutting it out, either. Which is by and large a good thing—most bands don’t make it, and almost none of them stay together long enough to produce more than a couple of good records, so keep ‘em coming.
The Britanys deliver simple, satisfying garage rock that properly pays respect to Iggy Pop, with vocals that are surprisingly mature, like singer Lucas Long must smoke a lot of cigarettes.
Annie Hart’s SoundCloud page says, “Putting all the synthesizers in my basement to good use,” which is a wonderful description of what she’s quite obviously doing—with emphasis on “good use.” Her low-fi, gossamer sound is like starched sheets stretched tight over brittle rock candy drum—resonant, tender, and not too sweet. The tendency towards fuzzy, underwater tones is cut by her clear voice that breaks through and pulls in the daylight.
Most Beautiful Island is that rare movie pitched as a “psychological thriller” that is truly a psychological thriller: the best parts happen in your mind while you’re watching it, as the filmmakers refuse to tell you what’s happening and you’re forced to assume the worst.
We were looking at Young’s pieces “Chains,” which are exactly that: carved wooden chains, created in what Young called a “kind of monotonous, boring, really unsatisfying use of my time. It was only satisfying at certain moments,” like when he stepped back to see the enormity of his progress.
It seems silly now to imagine that some of us groused about the opening of a “Mini-Mall” in the Realform Girdle Building– it just seemed so yuppie-ish and suburban and right there on Bedford and North 5th, like the places we’d escaped to get to New York. If you can image, “gentrification” wasn’t yet a watchword.
But by 2001, along with the Verb Café (RIP, well sorta– there’s a Verb 2.0 in Greenpoint) and the Internet Garage (read: before email was on your phone, you’d stop by here to “Get high on speed!!!11” as their Facebook page advises), you could stop by Mikey’s Hookup and play ping pong while picking up a guitar cord.
Kristin Dombek’s legendary essay “How to Quit,” published in the winter 2013 edition of n+1, garnered heated word of mouth and praise from the likes of Brooklyn Magazine’s Kristen Iversen, and that was before Dombek won a Rona Jaffe award, published “Letter from Williamsburg” in The Paris Review, and got a double book deal.
The first of those books has arrived, and it’s called The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism, out this week from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and while an essay might have a hard time making a splash in a media ocean churned by Trumpty Dumpty and the Olympics, the book has already drawn praise from the Times.