The Best NYC Shows This Week: Wax Idols, Vince Staples, The Blow
The Blow will perform “Brand New Abyss” at The Kitchen this Thursday.
What is indie pop? It depends on who you ask. Several of the genre's forefathers will play the city this week, representing different sects of the loosely affiliated art movement. The Scottish band Teenage Fanclub are alumni of early-Nineties shoegaze while Calvin Johnson, who will play with his new project Selector Dub Narcotic, was a founder of the shambling DIY ethos of Olympia, Washington. Over the last thirty years, these artists' influence has rippled outward, influencing electro-pop artists like The Blow and Baths, who will each play new music at their shows this week.
Teenage Fanclub, Holy Tunics
8 p.m., $25
Formed in the Scottish town of Bellshill in 1989, Teenage Fanclub was part of the first wave of indie pop artists (often called C86, after a mixtape which defined the genre) whose jangly guitars and sweet vocal melodies drew inspiration from Sixties girl groups and artists like The Beach Boys. In the early Nineties, the band's sound was often compared with louder contemporaries like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine. Last year, Teenage Fanclub released their tenth studio album, Here, a collection of relatively hushed, touching songs with memorable melodies. After all these years, the band still knows how to write heart-swelling, perfect pop.
Wax Idols, Pop. 1280, Decorum, Shaun Durkan (DJ)
8 p.m., $10–$12
Wax Idols, who hail from the Bay Area, are a four-person group who claim influences from Eighties new wave, post-punk, and coldwave, crafting strong songs with clear vocal lines. Some of their work is shrouded in feedback that emphasizes their dark, gothy side, while other songs, like their single "At Any Moment," off of the 2015 release American Tragic, employ sparkling electro-pop synths and soaring hooks. They'll be joined by Pop. 1280, a Brooklyn band known for their warped noise rock.
Baths, Knife City, Maxo
House of Yes
8 p.m., $20
When bedroom pop producer Baths — the stage name of adorably dorky musician Will Wiesenfeld — released his debut album Cerulean in 2010, indie music was at the height of its synth-pop obsession. Baths stood out thanks to Wiesenfeld's attention to detail. His tracks are full of interesting textures, white noise, pops, and crackles, layered with his looped, expansive vocals. On his second record, 2013's Obsidian, Baths' sound deepened and darkened, a process he continued on the 2014 EP Ocean Death. Wiesenfeld has stayed quiet since then — this show will be a chance to see what he's been up to in the intervening three years.
Weyes Blood, Julie Byrne
Music Hall of Williamsburg
8 p.m., $15
The primary appeal of Weyes Blood is Natalie Mering's voice. Mering, the singer, songwriter, and producer behind the gothic folk project has a velvety, sorrowful tone that draws out a baroque quality in her music. Stately is a good word to describe her tunes, which are slow, tempered meditations on romance and the uncertain future. But even as she sings over sustained organ notes, harp arpeggios, and dramatic piano chords, she pokes fun at her own seriousness. One track off her last album, Front Row Seat To Earth, finds her singing the letters "Y-O-L-O." Mering may sound like she fetishizes the past, but her eyes never leave the horizon.
Vince Staples, Kilo Kish
8 p.m., $25
To put it simply, Vince Staples is one of the best rappers working today. In 2015 and 2016, the Los Angeles artist released a one-two punch of excellent albums that demonstrated his range and creativity with songs that were both formally inventive and instantly infectious. His songs can work as party anthems, but they never lose sight of the darkness that plagues Staples' hometown. The powerful video for his 2015 single "Señorita" featured Los Angeles as a dystopian landscape where poor people ran from assault weapons, as if in some kind of sick, real-life video game. The end of the video reveals these rough characters are behind a pane of glass, watched by an carefree white family, who sits there inert and uncaring.
The Blow (performing Brand New Abyss)
8 p.m., $15
The most recent release from The Blow — an electro-pop duo composed of Melissa Dyne and Khaela Maricich — was deeply personal. The single, "Think About Me," is backed by wailing, analog modular synths that the artists built themselves. As the spare song slowly builds over nearly six minutes, Maricich sings about the end of a relationship, quietly repeating a simple question: "Do you think about me?" This week, the duo will perform a new piece, "Brand New Abyss," at Manhattan's legendary experimental music venue The Kitchen. The song series features instruments and installations built by the band. Everything else about the performance is a surprise — it's sure to be a good one.
No Vacancy II
Umfang, Sadaf, Macy Rodman, DJ Kala, Machine Girl, Askesem
929 Broadway, Brooklyn
8 p.m., suggested donation before midnight, $10–$15 after
Brooklyn's DIY art community will come together for the second installment of No Vacancy, a multimedia show taking place on the second and third stories of a disused building at 929 Broadway, which was formerly home to the DIY space Party Expo. Over 25 visual artists will show their work, spreading out over 12 white-walled rooms of various sizes. On the third floor, in a large, raw, brick-walled space, renowned techno DJs like Umfang and Sadaf will perform, along with the underground pop artist Macy Rodman. The building will inevitably be repurposed soon — this may be your last chance to see it in this form.
Glasser, Kill Alters, New Optimism
Baby's All Right
8 p.m., $12–$15
The experimental pop artist Glasser, whose real name is Cameron Mesirow, makes layered, electronic songs with slightly dissonant vocals reminiscent of Bjork. Her last album, 2013's Interiors, showcased pristine sounds and inventive song structures. This show's lineup is great all the way down: Mesirow will play with Kill Alters, a performance project of New York artist Bonnie Baxter, whose affecting, confessional work includes sampled recordings of her mother, who has Tourette's syndrome. New Optimism is a project of Miho Hatori, known for her work with the Nineties trip-pop group Cibo Matto and as a vocalist for Gorillaz.
Six Organs of Admittance
8 p.m., $15
Ben Chasny is a guitarist who has played as Six Organs of Admittance for more than twenty years. His prolific releases have included extreme psychedelic experiments as well as gentle folk. The latter makes a strong appearance on his most recent album Burning the Threshold. The change in style appears to be influenced in part by our current difficult political reality. Chasny writes on his Bandcamp that the gentleness of the album is inspired by the qualities he believes we need going forward: "love, forgiveness, reality and an ever-wider view." These soothing, beautiful psych-folk tunes will help you steel yourself for whatever is to come.
Selector Dub Narcotic (Calvin Johnson), This Saxophone Kills Fascists, Larkin Grimm
8 p.m., $10
Imagine Calvin Johnson — the founder of Olympia, Washington, label K Records and godfather of twee pop — rapping over club bangers. That's essentially the idea behind Selector Dub Narcotic, which up until this point has been Johnson's moniker as a DJ and remixer. The result, an album called This Party Is Just Getting Started, is incredibly awkward and fairly hilarious. On one song, Johnson rap-sings "I'm the type of guy who says 'who let the dogs... back in?'" Whether this is good or not (our vote is for "no") is besides the point — it's just plain fun. Johnson will play at Babycastles' Manhattan space along with This Saxophone Kills Fascists (another Olympia musician and K Records alumni) and the singer-songwriter Larkin Grimm.
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