Ladygunn Week In Review
The New York based dance-punk outfit, The Rapture, transformed the sold out Webster Hall (NYC) crowd into a sea of sweating, grinning, head-jerking, dancers, of all shapes and sizes, and brought back the counter culture atmosphere of the Misshapes dance parties that they often headlined in the early 2000s.
Playing an eclectic set of both vintage favorites and tracks off their latest album, “In the Grace of Your Love,” the Rapture introduced their new refined sound, which draws more attention to their lyrics than their signature dance beats, by opening with the title track of their new release. Here, Vito Roccoforte established a throbbing keyboard rhythm before lead singer, Luke Jenner, began his floating vocals, highlighting the poetic ponderings of love’s power.
They followed with a suite of songs that brought the group close to listeners’ hearts such as, “Pieces of the People We Love,” “Get Myself into it,” “Killing,” “Whoo! Alright Yeah…Uh Huh,” and “Olio,” during which Jenner flung his body around the stage like a puppet, bobbed his beachy curls to the catchy dance rhythms, and dove effortlessly into the crowd, confident his fans would lend him a pleasurable moment atop their wave of hands.
The band hasn’t released an album since 2006, Jenner left the group and then returned, and long time member Mattie Safer recently quit. Yet, the trio played a charged and dynamic set. Jenner’s voice oscillated like the warping tones of a synthesizer, but shrieked as only a human voice could. While Gabriel Andruzzi played everything: keyboards, saxophone, bass, guitar, and percussion, everybody loves his cowbell, Roccoforte hushed the buzzing room with his quiet moments on the keyboard. Their chemistry was infectious! The three of them were having as much fun on the stage as the exuberant crowd on the dance floor.
Following a cluster of old favorites with a trio of recent tracks made it easy to notice how the band’s musical approach has changed during its five-year hiatus. One of the marveling qualities of Jenner’s vocals is his ability to make you think of other great singers. Take “Get Myself into it,” for example, which is reminiscent of Sting’s vocals during his Police years. Or consider, “Killing,” which could be interpreted as an homage to the Cure’s Robert Smith. Jenner’s new vocals, however, sound authentic. He has endured many challenging experiences, (including the suicide of his mother and the birth of his son). While the lead singer did leave the band for a period, he seems to have returned with an understanding of himself as a musician. When he sings tracks off the latest album, he sounds like himself. (Kelly Robbins)
Live Review: Jens Lekman
Photos / Ericka Clevenger
The dimly lit Masonic Lodge at the legendary Hollywood Forever cemetery was a fitting venue for Jens Lekman’s sold out performance on September 28th in Los Angeles. From the moment the goofy yet oddly morose singer plugged in his acoustic guitar and fired up his sampler the lodge was abuzz with awkward dance moves and couples holding hands. Though I was put off earlier in the day when a friend mentioned the music genre “twee” in a conversation about Jens, I put that aside, sipped some red wine, and ignored my realization that I may be a “twee” kid. I simply enjoy voices that croon and Jens’ is smooth enough to make you melt and want to run away to Gothenburg with him.
The intimate performance featuring only Jens and a drummer introduced new material including 3 of the 5 songs from his recently released EP, “An Argument With Myself.” Not surprisingly, Jens explained that “Waiting for Kirsten” (from said EP) is a true story and is about Kirsten Dunst. As the song describes, he did in fact find out where she was staying while in Gothenburg (through a friend who worked at the hotel, not by stalking) and did drunkenly wait for her in the hotel lobby until he was kicked out. The stories explaining that his songs mean exactly what they say only make Lekman more loveable, there is comfort in knowing that your musician swoon is just as dorky as you are, and this is why Lekman has developed a loyal cult following. Though he’s gotten more notoriety with festival performances such as Coachella in 2008, the Lekman cult stays true and displayed their affection when he played “Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill,” doing the call and response oh no’s without being asked. A surprised smile appeared on Lekman’s face though he’s heard the call and response thousands of times before. Another standout from “Oh You’re so Silent Jens” included “I Saw Her in the Anti-War Demonstration,” another number about a distant crush. The upbeat tune encouraged audience members to dance their way through that song and the next—a welcome break from the somber mood of much of his new material.
Few musicians can change the tone of a room with such ease, but Lekman has no problem stopping the audience’s tapping feet in favor of one of his sadder numbers. Though “Black Cab” is normally a song that has his fans swinging from the rafters (or showing as much enthusiasm as awkward “twee” kids can), Lekman picked quietly at his guitar, slowed down the number, and changed the meaning of the song from a humorous ode to unlabled cabs to a lonely gent riding home alone and intoxicated on a Saturday night.
During “The Opposite of Hallelujah,” three female fans apparently felt Lekman’s gravitational pull and were moved enough to join him on stage in what can only be described as a forceful jig. Lekman backed away, letting the girls have their moment, his blank face with gaze turned to the floor suggested he was happy to have some attention taken from him. The fans were harmless enough that no guards had to rush to the stage to remove them, in fact they respectfully stepped down once the song ended.
Closing the show with a toned down version of “I Remember Every Kiss,” an audible sigh could be heard from the audience who didn’t want the show to end. Slipping away in to the crisp and cool early fall evening, I felt a feeling of longing that Jens had instilled, like the sweet sensation of a first crush that leaves you with chills and butterflies each time. (Ilyse Kaplan)
The Adults Book Review
Alison Espach’s dark and scintillating debut coming-of-age novel follows the life of Emily Vidal as she matures from a sharp and impertinent 14-year-old girl to a woman in her late 20s in suburban Fairfield, Connecticut where “neighbors commit suicide and high school teachers have suspect relationships with students.” The wry narrative opens with her father’s absurdly ornate 50th birthday, during which she catches her father kissing Mrs. Resnick, the mother of her “neighbor, maybe-one-day-boyfriend” Mark Resnick. From there begins Emily’s honest and painful passage into adulthood as her parents divorce, her father leaves for Prague indefinitely on business, and Mrs. Resnick is found to be pregnant with his child. When Mr. Resnick commits suicide in his front lawn, Emily is the sole witness, and she is burdened with her own guilt as well as Mark’s anger since she was unable to stop him.
Though Emily’s adolescence is filled with typical high school encounters, such as getting drunk at a school dance, dissecting pig fetuses, and picking out the “Unfuckables” in the student body, her years are also tainted with very adult scandals when she engages in a sexual relationship with her English teacher “Mr. Basketball,” whom is ten years her senior, and sets a classmate on fire.
Espach deftly portrays the hopeless feeling and strive to grow up that surround youth during the in between stages of adolescence and adulthood. “Being an adult, it seems, was horrible,” Emily comments. “But being a child was awful too, and moving from one state to the other only meant you were moving closer to death.”
Emily is constantly disappointed by the passive and unresponsive adults within her life, and though she wants to become a grown-up, she refuses to take after them. “Everything they wanted was within reach, or at least one nod away, so mostly, the adults stood upright, their arms stuck to their sides, like mannequins unaware of the night dimming around them. They were getting blinder, more immobile every day, and I felt it was my duty to warn them, to shout through the trees with a megaphone: Do you adults see how old you are getting?”
As the novel progresses, Espach skips over Emily’s college years and fast-forwards to her living in Prague with her father and Laura, Mrs. Resnick’s and his love child, as she begins her career as an interior designer. Mr. Basketball comes back into her life, and then leaves her yet again, their relationship fading in and out until the very end of the novel.
Emily muses that “If there was anything I learned when I was fourteen, it was that people were not yours.” She similarly states that, “There were so many things I had loved as my own, and these things never ended up being mine.” Emily never truly finds herself in the novel, even when she has moved to Prague, and later returns to Fairfield. This may be because she was never able to have control of anything at any age during her life. Mr. Basketball, her parents’ divorce, Mr. Resnick’s suicide, her father’s infidelity, all were out of her hands, even as an “adult” near the end of the novel, she still seems to feel lost.
“You are always learning how to say goodbye to whoever you were at the dinner table the night before,” Emily states. This is what we are all doing throughout life, and as the characters in The Adults grow up, we are able to see much of ourselves within the novel. From a confusing and tender adolescence to an even more confusing and aware adulthood, Espach is able to adeptly and beautifully capture this passage we all take part in. (Aly Vander Hayden)