Happy last day of 2012 everyone! Like many music nerds I used to make a top ten list of the new albums I had bought, and loved, each year. I’ve majorly backed off on buying albums and also lived under a music rock for quite some time. However, thanks to some good friends who clued me back into music and to services like Spotify (controversial, I know, but great for discovering new music), as well as going to big music events like South by South West and CMJ I feel like I’ve gotten back in the music game (and have bought albums, not just streamed them for free, thank you very much!). So here’s my top five songs, plus one bonus, that came out this year that have stuck with me.
I love Tame Impala’s fuzzed out pop. It’s catchy, it’s trippy and I feel like I can listen to it forever.
My favorite musical discovery this year: great songs, great people and a great future ahead for Torches. And a great video.
I’ll be honest that this video is hard for me to watch, especially as someone who used to work in violence prevention. But! Alt-J (∆) is a fantastic band and this song has been on repeat since I first heard it.
I realize I’m cheating a little bit on the Local Natives – their album Hummingbird, which features “Breakers,” comes out in January of 2013 and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy, but this single came out this year and it’s fabulous.
Grimes is wonderful and weird. It kind of irks me she’s become somewhat of a fashion icon (she’s featured in Vogue every month it seems), but good for her. She must have a good agent. I still like her music though.
Wild Nothing sounds like a wander through all my top 80’s bands. And as a travel junkie I appreciate this video.
Corita performs as a three piece at our 2012 CMJ showcase
The annual College Music Journal, or CMJ, festival is an event I usually try to avoid. During those five days in October I find that my usual favorite music venues are mobbed with people who have no idea how to act at a New York show (what is this youthful enthusiasm they exhibit?). I have noticed that the high energy and packed schedule of events seem to make me more tired than excited. However, when my band Corita was selected to play an official CMJ showcase and our friends Torches came east for their first New York shows this I decided that this year I would come out of my curmudgeonly shell and participate in the festival. What followed was one of the most fun, sleep deprived weeks of my entire life. Below is a recap.
Torches play their first NYC show ever at Arlene’s Grocery
While the official CMJ festival began on Tuesday, I kicked off the week a little early on Monday night to see Torches’ first-ever show in New York City. You may remember my bandmates and I met Torches in a parking lot outside of a bike shop at South by South West in March (they used to be called Torches in Trees, but they now just go by Torches). We were struck by their genuine excitement about the music they were making, the beauty of their songs and commitment to making their band a success. I was also doubly glad to see them because to get to New York on Monday they had driven straight to NYC from Minneapolis, about a 20 hour drive, after their show there on Sunday night.
Torches close out their first NYC show at Arlene’s Grocery
Having lived in NYC for eleven years now, sometimes I forget how frenetic it can be. Showing Torches around the Lower East Side was a fantastic chance to see the city through new eyes, and update my knowledge of my hometown as we ran around testing bars, pizza places and late night dining options.
On Tuesday, running on two hours of sleep, I picked up my official CMJ badge. Looking at it I took a moment to reflect on the fact that Corita is actually working slowly, at our own pace, to establish ourselves as a band. I also made a last minute flyer to give out.
Official 2012 CMJ artist badge!
My attempt at “marketing and promotion”
Wednesday was Corita’s showcase show at Fontana’s, a great club on the Lower East Side which also hosted our first show ever over three years ago. It is rare to find bookers and promoters who are supportive of independent music in Manhattan and who take the time to care about your band at all, but Jasper at Fontana’s has been there for us and we felt really privileged to be part of their “faves” showcase. The only wrinkle was that our bassist Aileen wasn’t there. She was stuck dealing with a situation that included tabloids, court room brawls, tears and the Walking Dead. We soldiered on as a three piece and I think pulled off a pretty rockin’ show.
Corita as a three piece at our CMJ showcase at Fontana’s
Corita at Fontana’s during CMJ
To continue the CMJ madness, as soon as we finished our set and thanked our friends for coming my friend Minnie (who took the pictures of Corita here) and I ran 10 blocks north just in time to catch Torches’ second New York show, which was part of an official showcase for Rockstar Motel. Minnie was in town from Paris via Montreal to soak up as much NYC as she could in a short time.
Torches at Santos Party House
I took a night off on Thursday and Friday got to keep the party going with the master of partying himself, Andrew W.K. as Torches were playing a show at Santos Party House.
Torches play Santos Party House during CMJ
Girl trouble: Minnie and Bridgette
Saturday I felt I could start to recover from the frantic week of rock and work, enjoy my friends’ company and take in more rock shows. The day started with an assessment of the state of my apartment, which resembled the fallout after an indie rock bomb explosion. In the midst of this I made apple cinnamon pancakes to fortify us all for the night of rock and roll ahead.
The chaos and energy of CMJ extended all the way into my apartment
Apple pancakes to fuel the rock’n’roll lifestyle
Saturday night brought the discovery of two new-to-me (but maybe old news to everyone else) bands: Weekend and Wild Nothing. Weekend treads heavily in early 1990s shoegaze territory, which is one of my favorite periods of music, and I heard echoes of the Stone Roses, Ride and even a little New Order in their set. Wild Nothing solidly references 1980s New Wave and I felt like I heard snippets of the Smiths, the Cure, and more New Order all evening. Because I have a tendency to listen the same music over and over, being inspired to get off my duff and find out about new bands was refreshing.
Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom for CMJ
Wild Nothing at the Bowery Ballroom during CMJ
While CMJ officially finished on Saturday, Torches still had one more NYC show on Sunday night, so we were able to extend the party a little longer. At Pianos they shared the stage with The Golden Awesome, a band based in New Zealand that makes beautiful, drony, dreamy pop that is reminiscent of Stereolab or Broadcast.
Torches open their final show in NYC at Pianos
Bridgette from Torches on the snare drum at Pianos
Torches’ final NYC shows was one of their best, though I loved being able to catch them four times during the week. Their songs contain shimmering pop riffs, memorable hooks and beautiful vocal harmonies that are driven by thoughtful lyrics. Despite hailing from sunny Los Angeles, Torches songs tend towards the dark, but there’s always a kernel of redemption in them. It’s been exciting to watch their progress as a band since we met them in March and I know they have much more in store as a band.
Azad and Eric from Torches at Pianos
Bridgette from Torches at Pianos
After their show and some celebratory pizza I waved goodbye to Torches as they prepared to drive through the night to their final show on tour in Chicago. As we promised to see each other soon I realized that one of the reasons I love being involved in indie rock, for lack of a better term, is the friendships I’ve forged over the years. It still amazes me that I can meet people who live so far from me, with very different life experiences, and bond so quickly and complicity. The music gives us a venue to share our sources of creativity and inspiration and connect around some of the things that we hold most dear to our lives.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the official video for Torches’ song “I Want Something”:
Sometimes you have to travel far away to meet someone who lives next door. That was certainly the case when my band Corita went to Austin this spring to play (unofficial) shows during the South by South West music festival. We were lucky enough to play with bands from all over the country, including bands from Brooklyn! We met Jim Campbell when he was playing in Moonmen on the Moon, Man and he gave us a 7″ of his band Paper Fleet. While we were playing Jim shot this great footage of Corita playing our song “Degrees of Freedom” on Super 8. Fastforward a few months and he managed to splice together audio recording he made and the film and voila! Corita’s very own home movie! Enjoy our punk rock parking lot performance.
We also just played a show last night with Paper Fleet at Don Pedro’s in Williamsburg. It’s such a treat to play with bands that you respect and enjoy. In addition, Don Pedro’s is much improved as a venue since the last time I went there a few years ago. They have a menu featuring delicious homemade burgers and there’s even a vintage store, Mystery Train Vintage, in the basement (!). So last night not only did Jim make another great video of Corita (this time on a digital camera and of our song “Remember That You Will Die”), but I also scored a Guess denim dress and a vintage braided leather belt – a whole new show outfit for $26. Punk rock!
I also want to point out that in this show outfit I am wearing my new, beloved t-shirt from Gal’s Rock boutique in Paris. It’s a whole store devoted to the music and fashion of women who make rock music! I will write more about it when I finally get around to posting my photos from my France trip, but suffice it to say that the t-shirt contains the names of all my favorite bands from the US and the UK in the 1990s. Yes, please!
Corita: Eleanor (Guitar and Vocals), Nick (Drums), Marisha (Guitar and Vocals), Aileen (Bass and Vocals). Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012
One of my favorite part of being in a band is the opportunity to collaborate with other creative people. I’m here at South by South West (full report to be published soon) and one thing I’m learning is that while bands need to increasingly take care of the business aspect of being a band, they also cannot possibly do everything single thing themselves. Those of us who have been in and around the punk scene have known this for years, but it’s nice to see a dialogue about collaboration and supporting each other creatively happening at the highest levels of the music industry.
Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012
Getting really good photos was one area where we as a band knew we need to reach out and collaborate with another artist. To get ready for SXSW, and to have the first of what we hope are many great press photos taken by photographers we love, my band Corita worked with Stefano Giovannini, who has shot for bands like Sonic Youth and Cat Power, as well as documented daily life around New York City. He shoots on location and authentically captures expression, mood and the relationships between people.
Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012
We chose bold colors and simple props from Party City for our shoot (most of which we didn’t end up using). We were a little bit nervous before we met Stefano – what would he be like? Would he understand our vision? Would he help us shape it? Would he be good to work with? When we met him we immediately felt at ease. He is a genuine, hard working artist who gently directs you so that he can get the best photos possible. So I am proud to share with you Corita’s four “official” press photos and one very special “out take.” Enjoy!
Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012
And I can help but think that this one was subtly influenced by the ending of my very favorite CHERYL video.
It started with a tweet, “When I am I going to see Corita play?” It seemed like a simple enough question, except that the author of the tweet was Michel, of the indie band MiLK & Fruit Juice and he lives in France. Unfortunately Corita did not have (and still does not have) any plans to play a show in France. Or anywhere else outside of New York. So I wrote back, “I don’t know, when are you coming to New York? I’ll set up a show.” Then I got a better idea, “Why don’t you play a solo show with us?” When Michel told me he was coming to NYC in September I wasted no time in booking a venue. However, I knew the other members of MiLK & Fruit Juice could not come to NYC and that being on stage alone in a new city is intimidating, and so I volunteered to be the backing band.
Photo by Anne Bourgeon
First of all, let me explain why I love MiLK & Fruit Juice: Michel writes catchy, dreamy songs that are full of heart. Some of them sound a bit twee, with with accents of toy instruments and excellent backing vocals from Marjorie and Sabine, but there’s also a twist of sadness, irony and realism. I am delighted to have met someone all the way across the Atlantic that shares so many of the same musical interests and passions as me. While that may seem like a small thing in this Internet age, when you meet in person, it still seems pretty magical.
Photo by Anne Bourgeon
On a rainy night in September at Spike Hill in Williamsburg the Pale Lights, MiLK & Fruit Juice and Corita shared the stage. Michel and I had one practice together under our belt and I was playing drums and singing back up on five of his songs. The day of the show I listened to the songs from his well-crafted album I’m Cold Handed Because I Have No Heart to Pump The Blood Through My Fingers on repeat. That night Michel debuted a beautiful, vintage Silvertone guitar he had found at Rivington guitars. I got to break out of my usual role as a guitar player and play drums, with drum sticks that Lisa Goldstein of the Pale Lights loaned to me for Michel’s set. Apparently I kept the fact that I play drums secret from my friends, but I actually took drum lessons for several years in middle school! I never really graduated beyond a 4/4 rock beat though. In any event, it was really fun (and a little nerve wracking) to be on stage playing drums supporting a friend whose music I love and who lives so far away. Anne, who co-runs the label MonsterK7 in Montreal and Paris, took these beautiful photos and video, and Sabine was kind enough to share with me. Enjoy and if you like Michel’s music perhaps you will set up a show for him in your town! Or at least buy his record.