13 Must-See Concerts This Week: FKA Twigs, Sufjan Stevens, Yelle + More

FRIDAY, APRIL 10

That little festival called Coachella starts its first weekend today. Whether or not you’re headed to Indio, you can still enjoy these playlists of artists that will be lighting up the desert.

Radiohead’s Philip Selway released his second solo album Weatherhouse last year. He’s finally bringing it live to American shores, and he’ll appear at (Le) Poisson Rouge tonight before heading to the West Coast for Coachella. 7:30pm, 158 Bleecker St, New York, NY.

Get a blast of the LA rock scene in Brooklyn tonight, as Upset and Colleen Green bring their tour to Shea Stadium. The former just released the ’76 EP, while the latter’s put out one of the year’s most engaging, relatable records with I Want To Grow Up. They’ll be joined by local favorites Charly Bliss. 9pm, 20 Meadow St, Brooklyn, NY.

Brooklyn rock scene stalwarts Dances just announced their debut album Keep Talking for this summer. First taste “Suzy Lee” might be one of the most invigorating tracks of the year so far, and you can check it out and more at Palisades tonight. 7:30pm, 906 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY.

SATURDAY, APRIL 11

Genre-hopping enigma Sufjan Stevens brings his new album Carrie & Lowell to the famed Beacon Theater in NYC tonight. 8pm, 2124 Broadway, New York, NY.

90s-loving British trio Happyness kick off two nights in New York tonight at Baby’s All Right. Their album Weird Little Birthday just saw its stateside release, and their slyly hilarious lyrics will show you they’re no slackers. You can also catch them tomorrow at Cake Shop. 8pm, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY.

SUNDAY, APRIL 12

Indie rock veterans the Mountain Goats just released their latest album Beat The Champ. Tonight, you can catch the last of their three NYC shows at City Winery if you didn’t get around to it earlier. 8pm, 155 Varick St, New York, NY.

MONDAY, APRIL 13

French party-starters Yelle aren’t about to take the week between Coachellas off. Head to the Observatory tonight and get ready to shake what votre maman gave you. They’re also opening for francophone superstar Stromae at Club Nokia tomorrow. 8pm, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA.

Father John Misty has released one of the most celebrated albums of the year so far with I Love You, Honeybear. He hits the Glass House tonight with raucous garage rocker King Tuff. 8pm, 200 W Second Street, Pomona, CA.

TUESDAY, APRIL 14

While FKA twigs’ forthcoming nuptials to past BlackBook cover boy Robert Pattinson might be the celebrity wedding of the century, let’s not forget that she’s earned her place in the spotlight. The charismatic musician and dancer brings her sultry tunes to the Belasco tonight. 8pm, 1050 South Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA.

Two generations of British buzzbands head to the Santa Barbara Bowl tonight, in the form of Alt-J and Jungle. Alt-J recently headlined Madison Square Garden after releasing second album This Is All Yours last year. 7pm, 1122 N. Milpas Street, Santa Barbara, CA.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15

Australian dance-pop star Chet Faker takes his tour with XXYYXX to Club Nokia tonight. His moody debut album Built On Glass came out last year. 9pm, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA.

Over the past year, Alex G has gone from an unassuming Temple University student to Domino Records’ latest signing. At Baby’s All Right, get to know his vision of gentle, moving guitar pop that’s more striking than it immediately lets on. LVL UP and Brandon Can’t Dance open up the evening. 8pm, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY.

BlackBook Premiere: Julian Lynch, ‘Gloves’

You have to hand it to Underwater Peoples: 90% of the artists on the label really do sound like they’re playing at the bottom of a swimming pool. Julian Lynch, since 2008, has been collaborating with the likes of two such aqueous bands: Ducktails and Real Estate. Meanwhile, he’s forged a winding solo path.

Which brings us to “Gloves,” a brand-new Lynch track from the forthcoming Lines LP, due out March 26. There’s a repetitive, jamming, minimal phrase that gets tessellated like one of Sufjan Stevens’s little shards of song, over which we hear some accordion wheeze. A bass line meanders through the mechanics until we come up against an outburst of guitar around the two-minute mark.

Nothing too dramatic, here, but then that’s always been Underwater Peoples’ charm—you could listen to this laid-back stuff while sitting out on the back porch with a beer and forget to put on something else when it’s over.

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Sufjan Stevens Releases Never-Before-Heard Song He Found On Old Hard Drive

Sufjan Stevens released a never-before-heard song called Give A Little Love on his web site yesterday, which he found languishing in obscurity on an old hard drive.

Stevens said the "abandoned song," which you can listen to here, might have been an "outtake" for his 2010 EP All Delighted People, according to NME

More recently/officially, in December Sufjan Stevens released a Christmas rap (?) mix tape called Chopped And Scrooged and in November, a five-album set called Silver & Gold: Songs For Christmas, which included a cover of Prince’s song Alphabet Street

Conclusion: the guy really likes Christmas. 

Email me at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

BlackBook Tracks #25: It’s Technically Not Even Winter Yet

This week, I am saving all of us the embarrassment of what could have been a list of “Eight Hottest Hanukkah Songs By Jewish Musicians.”

Concrete Knives – “Wallpaper”

Go on, get carried away by the sweet melodies of Concrete Knives. “Wallpaper” is the first single from the French band’s forthcoming album Be Your Own King.

Ra Ra Riot – “When I Dream”

Ra Ra Riot are preparing for the release of third album Beta Love, and “When I Dream” is the second track we’ve heard from it so far. Frontman Wes Miles’ voice sounds more heartbreaking than ever, fragile in all the right ways.

Heems x Sufjan Stevens – “The Child With the Star On His Head”

In addition to having recorded a Christmas EP for every state of the union (or something like that), Sufjan Stevens has continued to prove himself as the most festive person in America by releasing a hip-hop mixtape entitled Chopped & Scrooged. “The Child With the Star On His Head” was produced by John Dieterich of Deerhoof and features the vocal talents of Heems (ex-Das Racist).

Darwin Deez – “Free (The Editorial Me)”

Lovable weirdo Darwin Deez is back with his blend of jangly guitars and programmed beats. “Free (The Editorial Me)” provides a first glimpse at his forthcoming album Songs For Imaginative People.

Parks – “Sweater Weather”

It’s past actual sweater weather, definitely so if you’re in Boston, the city that newcomers Parks call home. Look back on faintly warmer days with some charming indie pop.

Avan Lava – “Tear It Down”

A little disco bombast never hurt anyone, and Avan Lava’s infectious energy can’t be beat. Remember, you deserve to have a good time.

Sky Ferreira – “Everything Is Embarrassing” (Unknown Mortal Orchestra remix)

If you can’t get enough of Sky Ferreira’s Blood Orange-produced track “Everything Is Embarrassing,” Unknown Mortal Orchestra made a version that is nearly seven minutes long. That’s quite a bit of extra time to think about how the song’s title may or may not be your 2012 life motto.

FaltyDL ft. Ed MacFarlane – “She Sleeps”

Get your Friendly Fires fix as Ed MacFarlane lends muted vocals to producer FaltyDL’s insistent track “She Sleeps.”
 

Follow Katie Chow on Twitter.

Sufjan Stevens Completes Your Seasonal Music Collection With Rap Mixtape

Holiday rap music is a frequently recorded but highly underappreciated genre. Surely, most connoisseurs of both hip-hop and Christmas tunes know the most tried-and-true standards—Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas In Hollis,” Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’”—and those who maybe don’t exhibit the same appreciation for the genre still looked up that video of DMX singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” But the genre still has just so much potential, so many tracks left unnoticed and so many holiday raps to even attempt, and who better than to bring seasonal rap to the Twitterin’, content-farmin’ masses than the ultimate Christmas music overachiever himself… Sufjan Stevens?

Of course Sufjan Stevens made a free Christmas rap mixtape, on top of Silver & Gold, the five-album new holiday set released last month. Of course he did. And of course it’s called Chopped and Scrooged, which, if you’re going to make a Christmas rap mixtape with a punny name addressing both of these qualities, you might as well make it something as great as that.

You’re probably reading this and not even batting an eye. And the roster of artists he compiled is as varied as his own cross-genre festive material. Heems (formerly of Das Racist) opens the mixtape with the commanding “The Boy With A Star on His Head,” a decidedly less jovial holiday rap than, say, “Christmas In Hollis,” but still effective, especially with the weird, atmospheric middle section from Stevens. Elsewhere, bounce master Nicky Da B invites Santa Claus over for an NSFW rendezvous on the scandalous and very fun “Christmas in the Room” and Kitty Pryde (who previously tweeted about the album) addresses Kris Kringle in a different manner, asking for gifts in the form of “Implants and Yankee Candles.” You can download the mixtape here or stream it via AsthmaticKitty’s SoundCloud below.

Which New Christmas Album Should You Play At Your Holiday Party?

The holidays are fast approaching, and most stores and even a few radio stations have been playing festive jams since late October or so. If you drive a lot or work in retail, you have probably already heard so much Christmas music that you fall asleep to the phantom sound of sleigh bells. But some people are really, really into Christmas music, and there comes a special time in every musical artist’s career where a holiday compilation album is made because of reasons / money / Christmas cheer? There are a host of new ones that have dropped this year. But, if you must have seasonal music, which is right for your holiday gathering? 

Cee-Lo Green – Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment

When more people know you as a judge on a popular reality singing competition than for being half of Goodie Mob, it’s about that time in your career to release a Christmas album. And as far as Christmas albums go, you could do worse than Cee-Lo’s—a catchy original here, a faithful and exuberant cover of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me” there. There are no real surprises but some nice gems, as well as some not-so-nice ones. A cover of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with college a cappella group Straight, No Chaser is well-intentioned and probably seemed like a cute idea in planning stages, but ultimately feels out of place.

This is one of the more versatile options, appropriate for both the family-friendly affair and the loud, boozy party involving ugly holiday sweaters you purchased ironically knowing full well someone’s grandma probably lovingly made them and spent hours on them and is a little bit hurt by your mockery. Plus one of the album’s few original Christmas songs—“All I Need Is Love”—has a video involving the Muppets and The Office’s Craig Robinson, and it’s quite enjoyable.

Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold

No one does holiday-music overkill quite like Sufjan Stevens, who has released five more seasonal EPs that will likely be the staple of every sorta-trendy holiday party, independent coffee shop throughout the month of December or religious service led by @HipsterPastor.

The arrangements are lovely, there’s a psyched-out song about a unicorn, a bizarre, synthy take on “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and at last, Chanukah is thrown a bone with a simple, lovely cover of “Rock of Ages.” It’s a lot of music to get through, but more of it seems fit for lulling you further into a food-and-mulled-wine coma than for a more social affair.

Various Artists – Holidays Rule

Sometime around the mid-‘00s, a whole slew of “A Very Indie Christmas”-type holiday albums began popping up all over the place. We blame this phenomenon on The O.C., and the convergence of Seth Cohen’s indie-middlebrow musical tastes and love of “Chrismukkah” spawning a holiday album that’s probably still in your old bedroom somewhere. This tradition continues with Holidays Rule, a compilation featuring Fruit Bats, AgesandAges, Punch Brothers and The Shins, who do a pretty-okay “Wonderful Christmastime,” but its faults are not really their fault, it’s just that “Wonderful Christmastime” is one of the worst Christmas songs ever. Eleanor Friedberger’s “Santa, Bring My Baby Back (To Me)” and Calexico’s “Green Grows the Holly” are among the highlights. And it’s hard to love the unsettling, creepy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but when Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten assume the roles, we’ll allow it.

It’s an easily digestible and pretty likable set, so it will work in most situations, but seems most fitting for an office party (at a "cool" office), an intimate Secret Santa exchange or a smaller gathering of Your Friends From Home, especially if the host has been playing the O.C. Chrismukkah album for the past eight years and needs a change of sound.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas

This is Christmas at Your Parents’ House in musical form. Basically, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John got together, made an album of accessible, pretty holiday standards and invited all the people your parents like to join them—Tony Bennett, Babs, Kenny G, James Taylor—the latter with a rendition of “Deck the Halls” that leaves something to be desired and contains a bit too much jolly Renaissance-faire flute. New original “I Think You Might Like It” is bouncy and enthusiastic—it sounds like Travolta and Newton-John are genuinely enjoying singing together again, which is always nice. The holidays are about bringing old friends together, after all. If you need a last-minute contribution to the family holiday party, or something relatively inoffensive for an office party (at an "uncool" office) this should suffice.

Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit

You remember Richard Marx, right? The man probably responsible for the song to which you had your first slow-dance, or perhaps even your first awkward, clumsy hook-up. Well, he’s still doing the thing and has made a Christmas album. There’s just something that sort of makes you cringe when people try to croon earnestly through the “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” part of “The Little Drummer Boy” and make it sound oh so smooth. It just doesn’t work. Own the “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum,” folks.

Only play this at your holiday party under very specific circumstances. Or whoever made the playlist has food poisoning and can’t make it and the Internet is down so you can’t get to the holiday Pandora station. Or you really, really enjoy reliving repressed memories from Christmas in the ‘80s.

Sufjan Stevens Covers Prince’s ‘Alphabet St’

No one ever really understands why Sufjan Stevens does what he does, including putting the Prince song Alphabet Street on his Christmas album.

Via the music blog Consequence Of Sound, Songs For Christmas: Silver & Gold is a boxed set includes actual Christmas songs — Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Good King Wenceslas — but I guess it needed a little Prince, too. The boxed set, which comes with temporary tattoos and a holiday ornament among other goodies, is out on November 13.

You can listen to Sufjan’s Alphabet St cover below:

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

This Is A Video Involving Sufjan Stevens and a Claymation Zombie Santa

We’re still not even quite at Halloween yet, but leave it to Sufjan Stevens and major department stores to already have us thinking about the holidays. But in the first video for a track from Stevens’ new upcoming series of holiday jams, Silver & Gold, it’s clearly not all delicate banjos, twinkly glockenspiels and lovely songs about roses e’er blooming. 

In the Lee Hardcastle claymation video for the slightly more rocking "Mr. Frosty Man," it turns out flight delays, not finding those in-demand gifts and relatives asking way too much about your personal life aren’t the only reasons to stress about the holidays. In the video, one family has their happy holiday meal turned upside down by a pack of roving zombies. Even Santa Claus becomes a victim of the undead. The child’s beloved snowman pal becomes a chainsaw-totin’, zombie-killin’ vigilante, but not before a whole lot of disemboweling. Enjoy your lunches! 

Speaking of Christmas Coming Early, Here’s A New Sufjan Stevens Holiday Song

Well, friends, it’s barely the beginning of October, but the holiday season is already upon us, it seems. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John announced yesterday that they were recording an album of intimate holiday standards with such delightful special guests as Kenny G and Barbra Streisand, which means more seasonal music cannot be far behind.

Now, master of banjos, glockenspiels and gentle holiday fare Sufjan Stevens is back with another set of even more Christmas music six years after Songs For Christmas, his ambitious set of five EPs recorded over five years which featured everything from classics like “The Little Drummer Boy” to originals like “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” The new upcoming set of seasonal jams, Silver & Gold: Songs For Christmas, Volumes 6-10, will be released November 13th.

We still have to get through Halloween and probably Thanksgiving and maybe the first of December before listening to these new holiday classics will be considered socially acceptable, but in the meantime, Stevens has released the first of the new songs, which is called “Christmas Unicorn,” is 13 minutes long and features lyrics like “Oh, I’m a mystical apostasy / I’m a horse with a fantasy twist / Though I play all night with my magical kite / People say I don’t exist.”  And then, about halfway through, the synths kick in and everything gets way too real.