Reviews, September 2015

Books

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_34_Image_0004KATRINA: AFTER THE FLOOD
GARY RIVLIN
(SIMON & SCHUSTER)
Put Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge (published in 2006) and Gary Rivlin’s Katrina side by side. Deluge, intent on telling in detail the story of the horrifying week following the levee breaches, has the anger and flaws of a rush job. Katrina has a trifling bump or two—New Orleans natives could quibble over Rivlin’s use of “Lower Ninth” instead of “Lower Nine” for days—but yields great benefits from the passage of ten years since August 29th, 2005, as well as from its author’s greater skills in reportage and research. If Deluge’s stopped clock did anything right, it was to show how New Orleans’ youngest, poorest, and oldest citizens suffered the most in the aftermath of the flooding. But Katrina dives into the storm, the dysfunctional local and national politics of our times in the face of disaster and, most importantly, the racial, social, and economic inequalities of the recovery with a sharp eye and a sharper pen, going to places where I’ve been hesitant to go. Rivlin perused Ray Nagin’s Katrina’s Secrets and extensively interviewed other parties involved in those times to get the other side of Nagin’s stories, for one, in order to get things right. Katrina: After the Flood deserves a prominent spot in anyone’s parsing of the tragedy that is the 2005 flooding of New Orleans and its ongoing repercussions. —Leigh Checkman

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_34_Image_0005WE’RE STILL HERE, YA BASTARDS
ROBERTA GRATZ
(NATION BOOKS)
With a long career as a fearless urban planning reporter, Roberta Gratz is an urbanist in the tradition of Jane Jacobs, who fought for small neighborhoods and organic growth against the aggressive New York developer Robert Moses, as depicted in Gratz’s book The Battle for Gotham. In We’re Still Here Ya Bastards, she turns her critical gaze towards the leaders and institutions which failed the people of New Orleans during the post-flood reconstruction process, producing a sharp and impassioned account of city development in the last decade. Some of the book’s subject matter is a bit over-generalized, such as her chapter on the overhaul of the public education system, in which she herself admits struggling to get a “clear picture” of its impact. In that case, one can’t help but think that perhaps the subject would be better off left alone. There are also some pretty glaring inconsistencies in her rhetoric, as in the case of her outrage over the seemingly willful displacement of low- income Black citizens on one hand, and her depiction of the influx of young newcomers looking for “great bargains in architecturally rich houses” as a representation of the city’s hopeful future on the other. However, her attention to detail in chapters like “The Demise of Charity Hospital,” her placement of New Orleans’ development in the larger trajectory of American urban planning, and the indisputably fabulous title makes We’re Still Here Ya Bastards a worthy addition to the canon of post-Katrina literature. —Holly Devon

 

 Visual Arts

SOPHIA BORAZANIAN
SEPTEMBER FEATURED ARTIST
MIMI’S IN THE MARIGNY
Last May, Sophia Borazanian made a splashy debut on the New Orleans art scene with her large scale photo-mural on the side wall of Frankie and Johnny’s Furniture Store, a longtime fixture of St. Claude Avenue. There, Borazanian experimented with compositional collage, using elements from her original photos taken throughout the city as characters in dreamy sequences divided into quadrants on the wall, which has long served as a blank canvas for New Orleans street artists. Now as September’s featured artist at Mimi’s in the Marigny, Borazanian is taking the medium of photo collage indoors, placing her unique creations throughout the bar. The exhibition begins at the foot of the stairs, where bright colors and fantastical scenes elicit the same sensation one has entering a certain kind of Mardi Gras party: the world ahead may not be familiar, but it is intriguing enough to stick around. Upstairs, photo collages are displayed throughout the room, ranging in size from five to eleven feet across. The mood of the pieces are sometimes melancholy, sometimes mischievous, and it takes a moment of watching each scene to sink into the story contained within. In a piece entitled Mississippi Becomes Her, a swimmer’s torso emerges to lie prostrate on a dock, while behind her, a pearly New Orleans night sky rises above the gloomy waters of the river. The piece is quiet and contemplative, with a pervasive darkness you can’t quite shake right away. Interspersed amongst the collages are framed prints, balancing the larger compositions with an understated and sophisticated photographic style. The work will be featured throughout the month, so take a look if you’re headed towards the Marigny for a night out. —Holly Devon

 

Music

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0003BEACH HOUSE
DEPRESSION CHERRY
(SUB POP)
 Rather than compare Beach House to a short list of other bands, a swim in the ocean, a ding dong around a singing bowl, or whatever else a person could think to compare them to, let’s pick one thing and stick with it. For the purpose of this review, that one thing is coconut oil. Beach House is the equivalent of musical coconut oil because they are good for almost any sort of ailment or situation you may find yourself up against. Depression Cherry, their fifth release, somehow manages to lower blood pressure, create a smoochy mood, generate overall PMA, and increase mental clarity. And all this within nine songs. Victoria Legrand’s vocals, ever the calmingly coolest, are more front and center on this release than any of the previous. Little else is needed. Her delivery is the ship, and everything backing her is the sea. No discredit to the other half of the band, Alex Scally, as her necessary and capable co-captain. Arranged like the perfect mixtape, Depression Cherry starts out dreamy with “Levitation,” picks up tempo with “Space Song ” and rocks back and forth for the duration, mixing salty and sweet, night and day, life and death. One of the many standout tracks, “Beyond Love,” is a four-plus minute journey through every possible human emotion. It’s perfect. The whole thing is just perfect. —Kelly McClure

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0004HIBOU
HIBOU
(BARSUK)
Not to start some kind of contention, but Hibou’s self-titled debut record is major enough to rival Courtney Barnett’s also brilliant debut Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Even though Barnett’s lyrics are a funhouse of rapid-fire imagery and tongue-twisting wordplay (whereas Hibou’s fuzzed out vocals make them as hard to interpret as My Bloody Valentine’s), Hibou’s musical arrangements work on a similar level. The smoky lead-guitar lines interweave with the rhythm section like interspersed memories, easily connecting their single and first track “Dissolve” to wondrous, pulse-thumping ‘80s beauties like The Cure’s “Lovesong ” and New Order’s “This Time of Night.” It’s really hard to make this style of music sound good, or even work on a very fundamental emotional level, and to see these musicians play live is to witness a congregation of absolutely gifted stunners. They’ve tapped into something much deeper than figuring out cool chord changes and trying to achieve music-theory prowess. Like the alien spaceship in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Hibou has managed to find a way to link musical phrases and tones to very specific, personal-yet-universal feelings and emotions as empathetic communication (i.e., language). The tempo of Hibou is the tempo of human experience. —Joey Laura

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0005LOS AND THE DEADLINES
PERFECT HOLIDAY EP
(BLUE SOAP)
Los and the Deadlines need you to take them seriously. Lead singer and vocalist Alex Sordado moved to London in 2010, and gathered together a smattering of musicians from all over Europe and the Middle East. Despite the global composition of his band and their continent-hopping travel schedules, he still classifies his band as “blue-collar.” Aside from that, they are also “art-rock.” Unfortunately, the sound is less avant-garde Bruce Springsteen and more a frenetic cobbling together of dorm room philosophy, Primus-like breakdowns, and intensely poppy choruses. Their Perfect Holiday EP wants to point out the hypocrisies of modern culture and all that jazz, but often sounds contrived and forced. Los and the Deadlines certainly have talent and a unique sound, but they want so badly to make important art that they have blinded themselves to making art that works. —Andrew Mullins III

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0006NIGHT DIALS
I’VE DONE MORE THINGS EP
(CIAO KETCHUP RECORDINGS)
Garage rock and psychedelia bands normally emerge from basements and dive bar floors and, if successful, transition to professional studios and stages with a functioning sound board. Still, some prefer to crawl back to the sticky floors once they’ve felt the emptiness of the isolation booth. London-based psychedelia group the Night Dials started recording on vintage equipment in Liam Watson’s Toe Rag Studios, only to find a dank basement surrounded by beer kegs and clanging wine bottles more inspiring, never mind cheaper. Buzz continues to build in England about the group’s debut single “I’ve Done More Things.” On the professionally recorded title track, thundering bass propels thick layers of crunchy guitars as the lead singer whines a refrain over a thick soup of reverb and fuzz. The sound and quality on the self-recorded B-side “I’ll Sleep When I Die” doesn’t drop off. The London freak-rock band managed to use the glass and metal in their basement to create an ambient and shimmering psychedelic sound, despite losing a producer and studio. With only two songs, the Night Dials serve up a hors d’oeuvre that inflames the appetite. Here’s hoping a full-length debut isn’t far away. —Andrew Mullins III

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0007PEACHES
RUB
(I U SHE MUSIC / INGROOVES)
Peaches keeps things nasty with the release of Rub, her first album since 2009. It is yet another example of her consistent skill for not only making good music, but also packaging it as an event to look forward to, rather than something to just passively enjoy. Putting its strongest track at the top with “Close Up” (featuring Kim Gordon), the song begins with Gordon’s pleasantly familiar humdrum mumbles, backed by a lip-curling, attitude-heavy synth beat, and then hands it off to Peaches for her trademark electro-raps. Following that is “Dick in the Air” which contains the tweetable lyric: “Balls, and dick, two balls and one dick. Balls, balls, dick, dick, balls and dick,” and shortly after, “Free Drink Ticket” is presented as an anthem for battling the douche chill, ego-heavy club culture. The second half of the album loses a bit of steam, but the first half is hot enough to compensate. Part of the joy found in a new Peaches release comes in watching people trying to figure out what to make of her. She’s great at creating scenarios where music writers are compelled to write sentences like: “Warning, it contains a glow-in-the- dark buttplug,” (which ran in a re-post of her video for “Light in Places” off the new album.) Feeling like you’re “in on the joke” is part of her appeal, and part of what makes her a true entertainer, and the reigning queen of danceable filth. —Kelly McClure

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_32_Image_0008SALIM NOURALLAH
SKELETON CLOSET
(HIT)
He’s put himself forth most famously as a producer of albums by bands like Old 97’s and Deathray Davies, but Salim Nourallah is first and foremost a musician and songwriter wielding a voice and pop sensibility that initially recalls John Lennon if he’d been raised in El Paso. Over time, Nourallah’s life and music have traveled a rocky road leading to the release of Skeleton Closet, a set of songs utilizing the same sorts of tools he’s always had, only the yearnings of which he sings aren’t as innocent as before and the imagery is stark and sometimes forbidding. Skeleton Closet never fails to beguile and seduce despite it all, even while giving listeners some lifelines, like the wistful looks backward in “This Town” and “Andalucia In The Spring,” or the escapism of “Permanent Holiday.” Throw in some crocodiles, lizards, and the desert itself, and Nourallah’s latest soundscape resonates with a piteous beauty recalling south-of-the-border surrealist art. It’s quite the portrait of brokenness. —Leigh Checkman

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_33_Image_0004SHANNON AND THE CLAMS
GONE BY DAWN
(HARDLY ART)
Shannon and the Clams live somewhere between now and then. Part Phil Spector’s “wall of sound,” and part Scooby Doo. Red lipstick, day old hairspray, and the random, but ever present smell of gasoline—that’s the ‘tude of their most recent release, Gone By the Dawn. Lead vocals are split between Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard, backed on drums by Nate Mayhem and together they make a sound situation that has a side effect of creating a mental word salad in listeners. While hearing the new songs, in between toe taps and shoulder swivels, you can’t help but think of a random string of cool shit. Wallet lines in a pair of old Levis. Thrift store smell. The noise a leather jacket makes when you cross your arms. A yet-to-be-mushed tube of red lipstick. Alligator tears mixed with caked-on eyeliner. Written during a time of stressful breakups for half the band, the songs squeeze the rag of depression into a sweating glass of beer and move on. “I Will Miss the Jasmine” opens the album with a dewy-eyed look over the shoulder, but “Knock ‘em Dead,” towards the end of the LP, tells everyone what’fer. No one’s gonna be caught crying to Gone by the Dawn, unless it’s behind some super slick dark sunglasses. —Kelly McClure

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_33_Image_0006WHITE REAPER
WHITE REAPER DOES IT AGAIN 
(POLYVINYL)
Hyped by the reputation of their rambunctious live shows, White Reaper’s first release for Polyvinyl Records, a self-titled EP, showcased their sticky melodies through a haze of fuzzed out guitars and drums. While the infectious “Cool” may have been a surprise underground hit in 2014, the band were confronted with the Sophie’s Choice that plagues most lo-fi bands; do you sacrifice recording quality for volume and feedback? White Reaper’s first full length effort, White Reaper Does it Again, strikes a balance between the two, capturing the band’s energy without sacrificing any sonic quality. Recorded at a frenetic pace in little over a week, the band, under producer Ryan Hater’s guiding hand, crafted twelve rip-roaring rock songs that are bound to make a road trip playlist or living room dance party. “Last Fourth of July” and “Makes Me Wanna Die” feature the power and precision of other garage rock darlings, Diarrhea Planet and Bass Drum of Death, and will make you stomp, drum, or beat out the tempo on whatever object is nearby and convenient. White Reaper Does it Again might be one more 30 minute blitzkrieg by another Southern lo-fi band, but it’s as loud, catchy, and brash as the best of them. —Andrew Mullins III

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_33_Image_0005WILCO
STAR WARS 
(DPBM)
Maybe Wilco’s cynicism seemed hip on the grossly overrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but the nihilism behind Star Wars is downright miserable. This nastiness attempts to hide under splashy cymbals and Jeff Tweedy’s noisy jams with better-than-that guitarist Nels Cline (particularly when the band debuted “Your Satellite,” along with the rest of the album, at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival). But Tweedy’s vocals are far too clear in the mix to have the listener miss a deadbeat line like, “I kind of like it when I make you cry” on the soulless “Random Name Generator.” And there’s nothing earnest about opener “EKG,” which is just as obnoxious as the hipster-friendly noise that ends YHF’s “I am trying to break your heart.” But there are some great pop-friendly vocal harmonies in “More…” that remind us that Tweedy has the potential to be this generation’s Paul Simon. Pair the vocal arrangement of this chorus with the wry songwriting behind “Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again)” or “Impossible Germany,” and he’s clearly the progeny of the brilliance responsible for “Kodachrome” or “The Obvious Child.” That’s what’s so disappointing about this album. Instead of reminding all the other bands how it’s done, Wilco must be actively holding back from us. —Joey Laura

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_34_Image_0001WINDHAND
GRIEF’S INFERNAL FLOWER
(RELAPSE)
Most of the loud-and-nasty metal bands nowadays have forgotten their roots. Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, and Iron Butterfly all created a visceral representation of intense emotionality through strong drumming, thick distortion, and deep grooves. On Grief ’s Infernal Flower, their third full-length album, Windhand joyfully keep those proto-metal influences in the foreground, particularly that deep “Electric Funeral” sludge that has tantalized doom-metal bands ever since Paranoid’s release in 1970. Even though there are some cheesy-sounding song titles, this album isn’t tacky medieval retread, which is easy for any band lost in the clichés of the doom sub-genre. For example, “Forest Clouds” features a slowed down version of the catchy grooves on Leaf Hound’s legit jam Growers of Mushrooms, and “Sparrow” rings with the same haunting simplicity of Uriah Heep’s cover of “Come Away Melinda.” It’s not as grittily heavy as Windhand’s self-titled debut (if the sludge of “Black Candle” had a tasting note, it would be “sticky floor”), but that’s perfectly fine. A positive, although minor, effort is still a step in the right direction for such a new band. —Joey Laura

 

AntigravitySeptember2015WEB_Page_34_Image_0002WINTERCOFFIN
FOREST OF BLITZKRIEG 7” 
(BLAK SKUL)
Black metal duo Wintercoffin (from Memphis) was comprised of Jimmy Blitzkrieg and Rob Evil. You may recognize Rob Evil as the singer/guitarist of thrash band Evil Army. However, Jimmy Blitzkrieg is better known as Jay Reatard (of The Reatards, Lost Sounds, etc.). The song “Forest of Blitzkrieg ” was recorded on a 4-track in Rob’s basement back in 2007. The duo became busy with other projects and never had a chance to record any more songs before Jay’s untimely death in 2010. Rob has finally released their lone recording on 7” vinyl. The other side of the record features a very cool gray etching of part of the album cover artwork (which is actually The Woods of Suicide, by Gustav Dore). Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see Jay Reatard in corpse paint, there’s a treat for you on the back cover. The recording is pretty lo-fi, but “Forest of Blitzkrieg ” rips. Roughly half of the song is instrumental and it blazes along quickly. You can hear elements of Jay and Rob’s trademark styles peeking through the black metal riffs. It would have been great to hear more from this band and see what they could’ve done. A serious collectible for any avid Jay Reatard fan, and a surefire must-have for fans of Evil Army and the black metal genre. —Jenn Attaway