Giant Step’s Resident 40: Lykke Li, Alaska In Winter and Friends We Love Festival

By Mawuse Ziegbe

So many rising stars sell out shows, sing along to a DAT, bask in their blogosphere buzz and call it a day. But congregates, believe wholly and fully in the hype of
Lykke Li. Rapturous Lykke Li followers enveloped Webster Hall and homegirl brought it. Her album Youth Novels is all feathery textures, pillowy vocals and naked emotion. And while she opened with the ethereal “Melodies & Desires,” she spent the rest of the show busting up the stage with rollicking versions of her dreamy break-up jams. Swathed in black layers she rocked “Dance, Dance, Dance,” banging on her drummer’s cymbals and shaking up the folky number with freewheeling spunk. The crowd drooled when she went into “I’m Good I’m Gone.” The band gave “Little Bit” a downtempo, acoustic revamp that heightened the vulnerability of the original version. During the encore she slipped in a cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” and finished with “Breaking It Up.” For a Swedish pop star, she was mad hip hop. It was kinda like Lil’ Kim Presents Lykke Li. Amazing.

Alaska in Winter is also doing some fun stuff performance-wise. A slight fellow with a penchant for suits and fur hats, the project’s Brandon Bethancourt tinkered with an assortment of homemade key-tars (like, guitars duct-taped to keyboards), ukuleles and synths at Williamsburg’s Monkeytown. The show had all the makings of crappy experimental theater (one guy, too many instruments, a tolerant, touchy-feely audience). But unlike crappy experimental theater it came across as a meticulously planned performance experience. Bethancourt projected video of himself playing each instrument individually on Monkeytown’s four screens. He dressed in layers and disrobed throughout the set to match his virtual doppelgangers. So say before he goes into his pulsing, New Wave jam “Berlin,” he’ll take off his brown slacks to reveal some crisp white skinny pants that match the four celluloid Bethancourts strumming banjoes, slamming key-tars and wearing horsey masks. Ok, my description sounds like I huff glue but I pinky swear it’s a totally great show.

I had a ridiculous time at the Friends We Love Festival. It was all beautiful Brooklyn folk who only come to the city for gritty yet fabulous parties such as this one. DJs like the legendary Bobbito and DJ Moni spun the chunes and Platinum Pied Pipers’ Wajeed made an appearance. And there was the requisite indoor street art and that everybody was too drunk to really notice. The party also had the rowdiest entrance sitchy I’ve ever encountered. You go to the door and there’s a sign saying the party’s moved across the street. Fine. You get to that address and there’s another sign saying it moved around the corner. Um, ok. The next entrance says it’s on the other side of the building. Just when I’m about to give up thinking the party’s in Narnia, I find the entrance. And the elevator isn’t working. Joy. Five flights later, I get to the party. Sarah White and DJ Don Cuco hit the stage and I bop to their snappy number “I Wanna Be With You.” Hopefully this bit of blog buzz doesn’t make them switch to DATs. I think more rising stars need to slam key-tars and channel Lil Kim.

Giant Step’s Resident 25: Lykke Li, MGMT, Peter Hadar, The DFA, The Herbaliser

By Mawuse Ziegbe

One of my favorite songs of the moment is “Little Bit” by Lykke Li. Lykke Li is a Swedish national who cranks out that folky, beige pop the Nordics craft so well. When I hear her music Feist and Peter Bjorn and John pop in my head. “Little Bit” is a sunny infusion of delicate, melodic guitar and fuzzy bass over which Lykke coyly proclaims she’s “a little bit in love with you” only if you’re “in la la la love with me.” That sort of naked declaration of undying (“and for you I keep my legs apart and forget about my tainted heart…) yet conditional love (“only if you’re a little in love with me”) is sooooo what being a 20-something fantasist is about. I’m also all about MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” This is a band I didn’t want to like, because its appeal is unabashedly hipster and well, I’m shallow. The two mussy-haired Brooklynites (via Weslyan University) do Hall and Oates and David Bowie proud with their proggy disco. The accompanying video is indulgent, trippy woodland camp that invokes Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story. In other words, video of the year.

When I’m not listening to bugged-out Gen-Y’ers, I’m listening to Peter Hadar. A burly wall of a man, Hadar (pronounced Hah-darr) pumps out sensual, electro-soul. An aural clone of Dwele, he’s more metaphorically nimble as he invites young tenderonies to visit his world (“Planets”) and croons about how a beautiful bedfellow induces pill-poppin’ (“Sleeping Pills”). Last Tuesday night, Hadar held court at Drom where Pete Rock spun records from Redman, Erick Sermon and 50 Cent (blech). Hadar kept it hip hop and kicked off his set with a freestyle over Lil Wayne’s thundering ” A Milli” instrumental. Then he launched into “Planets,” followed by a drum and bass vocal song and topped off the impassioned set by stomping all over the furniture.

Last Saturday, DFA Records was making a racket over at PS1′s Warm Up performance series. James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem, a project I normally just can’t get into, spun cherubic disco house from some heavenly dance floor where angels do the hustle and the Jheri curl juice never drips. The art was fun too. I was particularly into the Olafur Eliasson’s Reversed Waterfall where water flows up and Damián Ortega’s Controller of the Universe where weapons float in the air. I was particularly so not into the exhibition, Arctic Hysteria: New Art From Finland. Especially Markus Cooper’s creepy kinetic sculpture Kursk; a series of life-sized hanging antique diving suits, rigged to jostle back and forth randomly in a cramped dark room. That almost killed my disco buzz.

But praise polyester there’s the good ol’ Giant Step Hudson Hotel party. UK’s The Herbaliser peppered the playlist with more funk than a little bit. But surprisingly, it was more of a sipping and head-nodding affair compared to the usual Hudson footwork fest. It started out somewhat slow but eventually swelled to a sizable jammy jam. And if this past week has taught me anything it’s that Finnish art gives me the heebie jeebies, my idea of heaven includes a mirrored ball and a wah-wah machine and that funk always gets the party started.