Photo of Phil Asher © Jaecyne Howell
A most curious thing occurred at the office one day. Ambling down the halls I happened upon a bin of unwanted swag. While it's usually chock full of crap like cookbooks by convicted felons and posters of small-town yokels named Lil' No No, this time teetering at the top of the heap were three albums from artists that apparently no one else in the office cared about: 88-Keys, Peter Bjorn & John and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' roiling SNL performance the week before was the highlight of my recent sojourn to Boston and I've been diggin' the shimmery, disco gloss they've slathered on their signature reckless glammy rock. I'm all over the way the slightly sinister opening strains set up the rumbling and unexpectedly groovy "Dragon Queen."
Peter Bjorn and John's Living Thing however kinda belongs in the slush pile. For an album with so many sounds it's remarkably stale. The folky whimsy of 2006's Writer's Block has evolved into a bratty racket weighed down by monotonous percussion. Like, what is "Lay It Down?" The chorus of "Hey, shut the fuck up, boy" is as catchy and irritating as The Clap. They recently performed a most uninspired show at the Hard Rock Live Theater marked by the yawning wails of "I'm Losing My Mind" and the aforementioned "Lay It Down." I only got into it when they played "Amsterdam" and I left the second "Young Folks" was over. I really wish I had seen them two years ago when they weren't making tedious songs that sound like Paul Simon tours Williamsburg.
At The Studio at Webster Hall, I caught Melo-X, a downtown DJ trying his hand at the rap thing and using the same breathy delivery and dusty beats trademarked by Slum Village and Little Brother. Jesse Boykins III helped out on "Keep The Faith," where Melo eulogizes fallen friend. The show was cool, but at the end it was like, "ok, I've done that." The audience was really going nuts, however, for guest singer Cynthia who delivered a bluesy version of Lauryn Hill's "Sweetest Thing."
When UK soul legend Omar held an after-party at Santos Party House, a cavalcade of promising young singers contributed to the fray. Yahzarah made an impression with her casually insistent vocals on The Foreign Exchange's classic 2004 debut Connected. However, her able performance simply lacked that ol' razzle dazzle. I didn't know who she was until the host back-announced her performance. However, Grammy-nominated singer Maiysha was a welcome surprise. I know her as a plus-size model that doles out fierceness advice on MTV's "Made." And with vocals as robust as her enviable curves she broke it down with the light d-n-b jam, "Over My Head."
This column pretty grew out of me blogging about Giant Step's Hudson Hotel parties so praise the almighty turntable that the series returned with the lovely Phil Asher (view photos). Hitting NYC for the first time in five years he spun all sorts of balmy house and retro gems like Grace Jones' "Private Life." No one in my office may give a hootle about artists like Mr. Asher and 88-Keys (and his admirably cohesive and cop-worthy concept album The Death of Adam) and but if that means more free music is just an amble away, I'm all over it.