Arts & Entertainment

  • Best savior of the printed word

    826NYC

    Imagine what a nightmare it would be if we lived in a world where children learned to wrt lk ths, no one read newspapers, and adults patted themselves on the back for making it through a 759-page children's book about a boy wizard. Oh, wait—we already do. Hoping to prevent the further downhill slide of the printed word, 826NYC, a… More >>
  • Best hardcore band led by dogs

    Caninus

    While metal bands pathetically imitate growling animals, Brooklyn's Caninus went to the source, skipping the humans and working with another species. Female pooches (not "bitches," please) were recruited, originally adopted from local shelters. Vocals come from eight-year-old Budgie (part pit bull, part Chow Chow) and six-year-old Basil (part pit bull, part greyhound), who "sing" by chewing rawhide bones. The "lyrics"… More >>
  • Best Saturday-morning radio show

    Felix Hernandez

    It is likely to start with a James Brown wail, an ever-ascending, caterwauling screech that knocks away any remnants of the morning haze. J.B. is telling you he feels good. Now so do you. Since 1986, Felix Hernandez has been starting Saturdays this way for thousands of metro-area soul-music fans whose listening tastes have been all but shut out by… More >>
  • Best one-off fluke in NYC rap history

    "This Is Why I'm Hot"

    A mere half-year after its meteoric ascendancy, the memory's already nearly faded, hasn't it? "I'm hot 'cause I'm fly/You ain't 'cause you not"? "I could sell a mil' sayin' nothin' on a track"? Hello? Anyone? Have you forgotten? That "This Is Why I'm Hot" seemed to instantly lapse into ancient history (after rising to prominence in, y'know, February) says more… More >>
  • Best crowd participation at the movies

    The Magic Johnson Theater

    The Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem has some of the cheapest ticket prices in the city at $10, and its moviegoers seem to have the most fun. It is a shush-free haven for those of us that laugh loud and have movie Tourette's, a condition that compels one to shout out advice to the characters on-screen. At a particularly interactive… More >>
  • Best coffeehouse folk album for those sensitive to media overexposure

    Real Life

    Norah Jones, while still mad cute, lacks a certain, shall we say, edge. Feist's The Reminder is indeed tremendous—tremulous, volatile folk-pop both your mom and your tattoo-artist roommate can love—but goddamn if every paper in town hasn't all but proposed marriage in print. So for those of you desiring something soothing and elegant that still carries a hint of aggression… More >>
  • Best local publisher of global mysteries

    Soho Press

    Human beings aren't the only immigrants flooding into the nation's most diverse city. Thanks to Soho Press, we're also the melting pot for crime novels set in some of the planet's most intriguing and exotic locales. Issued not so mysteriously from offices on Broadway, the publisher's Soho Crime series features such authors/locales as Qiu Xialong/Shanghai (Death of a Red Heroine,… More >>
  • Best spot to find deranged '50s and '60s music

    Crypt Records

    Crypt Records in Brooklyn is a labor of love for owner Tim Warren, and has possibly the cheapest vinyl in New York City. Customers are greeted by visions of naughty Barbies hanging from the ceiling and an amazing array of vintage posters. The place specializes in punk, rockabilly, blues, doo-wop, and gospel from the '40s, '50s, and '60s. There's even… More >>
  • Best music shop to go digital

    Other Music Digital

    After saying so-long to its neighbor Tower Records last fall, the smart folks over at the beloved indie record shop Other Music opened a new store this year, Other Music Digital. Just like the real shop in the East Village, the easy-to-use online store offers the staff's expert music reviews and carefully chosen selection of rock, reggae, electronic, hip-hop, and… More >>
  • Best documentarian of New York's indie- rock scene

    Joly MacFie

    In about 30 years, when the hipsters of today are all old and tired and thinking that their Yeah Yeah Yeahs records sound better than anything coming out of the 2030s, they'll be thanking Joly MacFie for diligently going out night after night with his video camera to record just about every single band that mattered to their scene—TV on… More >>
  • Most completely terrifying stage presence

    Dirty Projectors

    For a music editor, one measure of a band/record/social phenomenon's cultural cachet is how frequently freelancers pitch it; by this metric, Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors are currently the hottest thing going. This is largely due to the group's fascinating new Rise Above, which boldly "recasts" Black Flag's 1981 classic Damaged—a favorite record of Projectors mastermind Dave Longstreth's youth—despite the fact that… More >>
  • Best break-out theater company

    Nature Theater of Oklahoma

    Director Pavol Liska lifted his company's name from his countryman Kafka, who used it for the theater in his novel Amerika. But we're sure ol' Franz would approve: Deploying a fresh intelligence, an ingenious theatricality, and a pleasingly odd sense of humor, the Nature Theater of Oklahoma has become one of the top alternative companies in New York. This is… More >>
  • Best provocative playwrights

    Thomas Bradshaw or Young Jean Lee

    Coke-snorting English professors, ass-slapping Korean girls, slave-owning demagogues, the opium-addled poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge—no one could possibly accuse playwrights Thomas Bradshaw or Young Jean Lee of crafting uncontroversial characters. Race, sex, class, religion—these acerbic scribes leave few buttons unpushed. Sample lines: "The wiliness of the Korean is beyond anything" and "We need to lead a revolution against these kente-cloth niggers!"… More >>
  • Best foreign theater director we wish was a New York theater director

    Ivo van Hove

    He directs in New York every few years, but if Ivo van Hove would like to permanently abandon old Amsterdam for the new one, we'd happily dig a few canals to help him feel at home. Head of the Netherlands' Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the avant-gardist has been a regular guest director at New York Theatre Workshop over the past 10 years.… More >>
  • Best punk-comedy cabaret act

    Puttin' on the Ritz

    For anyone who's torn between thrashing and crooning, rejoice: Puttin' on the Ritz thoughtfully lets you have it both ways. Started in a drunken haze at a friend's party in '04, the band is the creation of drummer Kevin Shea and singer B.J. Rubin, punk fans who happen to love the standards (Shea even studied jazz at one point). Though… More >>
  • Best reason to start working on your rubber-band ball

    City Reliquary

    To most, a museum exhibit called "Selzter Bottles of Brooklyn" sounds about as appealing as, say, a two-part PBS series on cinder blocks. But in their lovingly detailed displays at Williamsburg's City Reliquary, the worn-out bottles, and other such seemingly unremarkable detritus, shine like rare jewels excavated from a long-gone New York. Which is exactly what they are to Dave… More >>
  • Best way to honor street musicians

    Buskers Hall of Fame

    The fine art of busking (a/k/a street performing) is practiced throughout the boroughs, but you can find the Buskers Hall of Fame in Manhattan at Pier 17. The hall was initiated by the South Street Seaport organization in 2005; the first inductees included juggler Josh Weiner (who'd been performing in the area since the early '90s and served as an… More >>
  • Best murder mystery by phone

    Canal Street Station Installation

    Bored stiff waiting for your train? If you happen to be at the Broadway–Canal Street subway hub, you're in luck—artist/actor Ryan Holsopple has put together the Canal Street Station Installation in conjunction with the nonprofit arts organization free103point9. If you call the installation's toll-free number at one of the station's 20 to 30 phones, a mysterious woman (actress Tajna… More >>
  • Best martial-arts comedian

    Master Lee

    A tall, thin Chinese man in white robes with long dark hair walks onstage and says, "I, Master Lee, will take this wooden board, smash it against my head, and howl in pain. But first, I'd like to talk about my childhood. . . . " Despite a background in kung fu, William Lee started out busking as… More >>
  • Best way to impress your friends with your newfound art smarts

    The Contemporaries

    Since structured museum tours aren't for everyone, anyone looking for a more social and hands-on way to indulge in art has another option: The Contemporaries, founded by a handful of Harvard Business School friends in 2003 to engage in art-related dialogues with peers and expose members to contemporary art in assorted social settings. After graduating, some members gravitated to NYC,… More >>
  • Best multi-colored tower that isn't the Empire State Building

    Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Clock Tower

    If it survives 2009, what's been known as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Clock Tower will celebrate its centennial. At its debut, the 700-foot structure was the tallest building in the world; for 12 hours a day, four huge bronze bells (ranging from 1,500 to 7,000 pounds) would chime a melody from Handel's Messiah. But what's been most impressive about… More >>
  • Best (and hottest) teacher

    Jo Boobs

    In the immortal words of Van Halen: "I think of all the education that I missed/But then my homework was never quite like this/Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad/I'm hot for teacher." Those lyrics should spring ineluctably to the mind of any student who contemplates taking the Burlesque Master Class (or should that be Mistress Class?) with… More >>
  • Best be(a)st

    Taylor Mac

    Sure, you could call Taylor Mac a drag artist. But though he dons the occasional gown or tutu (and looks lovely in them), it's not really ladies he's aping. Rather, Taylor Mac does fish drag, flag drag, alien drag, monster drag. As he says in his artist statement, he believes people "are hateful and wonderfully loving, greedy and giving, scared… More >>
  • Best pop-cult composer

    Michael Friedman

    Most rhyming dictionaries wouldn't offer "Kinshasa" as a natural pairing with "tabula rasa"—in fact, they might distinctly recommend against it. But thank goodness composer/lyricist Michael Friedman doesn't pay attention to such hidebound rules. Friedman's incidental music—recently heard in the Public Theater's Romeo and Juliet—proves appropriate and evocative in a variety of genres. But it's his lyrics that make us wax… More >>
  • Best reason Tuesday should be the new Friday

    Slavic Soul Party

    Isabella Fonseca, an American author of Romany origin, has noted: "The Gypsies have no heroes. There are no myths of origin, of a great liberation, of the founding of a nation,' of a promised land. . . . They have no monuments, no anthem, no ruins, and no Book." But they have really great bands. Luckily, New York boasts several… More >>
  • Best tribute to Stevie Wonder

    Keistar's Annual Wonder-Full: Stevie Wonder Tribute Party

    Stevie Wonder is the kind of cat whose music transcends generations, dominating the classic r&b pantheon almost the way Bob Marley does with reggae. Ask anyone: The moment a DJ slips on "All I Do," the crowd goes bananas. But as beloved as Stevie may be, even the staunchest T-shirt-wearin' supporter might have a hard time listening to his music… More >>
  • Best way to relive your teen angst

    Cringe Night

    On the first Wednesday of each month, there's standing room only for Cringe Night at Freddy's Bar & Back Room. Well, actually just the back room, where mostly twenty- and thirtysomething women reveal the contents of their teenage diaries in humorous confessions of first lusts, adolescent antics, and celebrity crushes. On a recent Cringe Night, one young woman read her… More >>
  • Best MP3 blog/zine hybrid that will add to your intelligence without insulting it

    paperthinwalls.com

    The problem with most MP3 blogs is that they either make no attempt at all to provide critical insight along with their free music, or they inundate you with twee, narcissistic ramblings that make you wish you hadn't complained about that first group in the first place. A rare and splendid exception is the mighty paperthinwalls.com, run by Voice contributor… More >>
  • Best antidote to the burgeoning Bushwick arts scene

    Ralphy's Towing

    You've seen it happening in other people's neighborhoods, and now it's happening in yours: ill-conceived art thoughtlessly hung in some shoddy, poorly lighted ex-industrial space, bearing price tags that are highlarious in that witless grad-school way typical of the overprivileged and intoxicated. Note the suffocating air of vainglory . . . the joyless careerism . . . the inevitable "experimental"… More >>
  • Best place to hear self-important design professionals talk about themselves (and sometimes each other), and occasionally also see some excellent work

    The American Institute of Graphic Arts

    If you have neurasthenic shudders from seeing the Google logo too often, or find yourself clinging to tattered copies of defunct magazines such as Flair and The Smart Set like a drowning man or furtively searching those grimy blankets of bootleg DVDs for a copy of Gary Hustwit's feature-length typographic porno, Helvetica, then there's simply no hope for you, kiddo:… More >>
  • Best neo-Britpop/Northern Soul revival/art- damaged band comprising some ex-Yalies who now live in Brooklyn

    Harlem Shakes

    Or pseudo-twee bombast meets intellectualized disco. Or More Songs About Joseph Beuys and Other Carpetbaggers. Lethally charming and poised for certain success, Harlem Shakes was formed a year or so ago by five gents who pillaged their well-stocked bookshelves and iPods to create their own spastic, beguiling version of what Phil Spector once dubbed "the sound of tomorrow, today." It… More >>
  • Best place to get on point

    Baryshnikov Arts Center

    New York's favorite former Muscovite has thrown all his artistic capital—and a good chunk of the more familiar kind—into the proposition that the city is starving for quality dance performances. So far, it's paid off in spades. Since its opening in 2005, the Baryshnikov Arts Center has showcased such work as William Forsythe's You Made Me a Monster, in which… More >>
  • Best child of Andy Warhol

    Cary Leibowitz

    Since the early '90s, New York conceptual-art virtuoso Cary Leibowitz, a/k/a Candy Ass, has worked his outsider credentials as a "Jew fag" (to quote Kiki & Herb's Kenny Mellman about his own stage persona) to great effect, creating delightfully tacky, acerbic artifacts that use purposely banal language and forms to address social anomie and witless consumerism: souvenir cups that rally… More >>
  • Best museum to contemplate La Deutsche Vita

    Neue Galerie

    Just a stone's throw from the Met, the Neue Galerie offers one of the most intriguing collections of German and Austrian art and interior-design exhibits from the early 20th century. Of course, the centerpiece of the collection is Gustav Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, an engrossing assemblage of gold leaf and paint that the gallery acquired last summer for a… More >>
  • Best made-up musical genre

    Upper West Side Soweto

    The distinguished gentlemen of Vampire Weekend—purveyors of delightful, intricately arranged indie rock with African pop flourishes and wise-ass twentysomething slacker overtones—have in their short life already amassed a certain keyword-based reputation. Each praiseworthy review hits all the notes: They're all Columbia grads, they sound like Paul Simon, and their first prominent track/mission statement was entitled "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," a… More >>
  • Best rising theater director

    Annie Kauffman

    Over the past 60 years, only two women have won the Tony Award for best direction of a play. (I used to think three women had, but it seems that Vivian Matalon is a man.) Annie Kauffman hasn't won a Tony, and it will likely be a decade or so before her name shows up on the list of nominees.… More >>
  • Best New York theater production that may never appear in New York

    Gatz

    In a wonderful party scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, various characters cling to one another as a band plays "Ain't We Got Fun." To answer the band's question, no, fun we ain't got—namely, we ain't got Elevator Repair Service's version of The Great Gatsby, entitled Gatz. And Gatz is very, very fun. Though Elevator Repair Service is… More >>
  • Best didactic gallery

    The Grey Art Gallery

    And we mean that in the best possible sense, as in Webster's: "intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment." Part of NYU, the Grey Art Gallery delivers all the scholarly trappings—wall texts, erudite catalogs, lectures, symposia—for full-dress retrospectives of deserving but under-recognized artists, and for eclectic group exhibitions that put disparate movements into historical context.… More >>
  • Best overtly political gallery

    Daneyal Mahmood

    "I don't care if I alienate anybody," gallerist Daneyal Mahmood explains when asked about the volatile work he exhibits. He adds, "I like the theatrical, the spectacle," and his exhibits are generally both. One gallery stalwart is former Soviet soldier Andrei Molodkin, who sculpts clear plastic statues of Jesus and dollar signs filled with Iraqi crude oil; he also draws… More >>
  • Best way to get smart about dance

    Works & Process

    People often claim they don't understand dance. The sweat is real, and so are the movements, but they worry over those meanings that can't easily be pinned down in words. Not to fear! They, as well as those who know the names of every New York City Ballet dancer and saw Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring with the original cast, can… More >>
  • Best MFA writing program

    Hunter College

    If you're considering an MFA in writing, you either don't love money or don't need to worry about it. Those of the latter stripe can cope with Columbia's $50K price tag. The bargain seekers who can't leave NYC should gravitate to Hunter College: In addition to a financial-aid package the school describes as "better than free," at least one student… More >>
  • Best café to write in

    Doma

    OK, it's cramped. You'll only get a seat by sheer aggression, and an electrical outlet by the grace of God. You're guaranteed to bump your neighbor's elbow or accidentally whack her with your shoulder bag. But in the rustic, Czech-flavored café and art gallery Doma, the music's always low and never obnoxiously "lite." They place serves tasty, inexpensive all-day fare,… More >>
  • Best NYC rock album

    Mirrored

    With all the fuss over what constitutes a summer anthem—its sound, its look, its sentiment—and with all due respect to Rihanna’s splendid “Umbrella,” let us admit to ourselves that the official such jam of 2007 was a ludicrous, mortifying battle cry with bleating, incomprehensible, robotically pulverized lyrics and a mordant marching-munchkin beat that led some to imagine the Smurfs recast… More >>
  • Best New York movie this year (so far)

    Day Night Day Night

    A frail-looking young woman, outfitted with a bomb, wanders through Times Square—her finger on the switch, searching for the moment to blow up. That, in a sentence, is the premise of Julia Loktev's Day Night Day Night, which had a week-long run at the IFC Center last spring. Emerging from the Port Authority outfitted with a lethal backpack, the demure… More >>
  • Best venue to see experimental dance

    Dance Theater Workshop

    For the uninitiated, going out to see a dance performance is presumed to be boring. But the well-versed know that New York has some of the most provocative, forward-thinking dance in the world, with Dance Theater Workshop among the city’s mainstays. Supporting innovators in the arts community since 1965, DTW has always showcased bold works by choreographers with a taste… More >>
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