This summer, people my age—mid-twenties, that is—wore white jeans, khakis, topsiders, deck shoes, loafers, pastel shorts, and suntans. It arrived under the guise of the season, this Vineyard wear—a nod to an adult lifestyle nowhere near our grasp. There was a sense that something important was about to emerge: a way to skip those striver years, that cramped apartment, this New York rat race. Music heard in the background all over town seemed to promise relief from the tremulous times to come, years of deprivation for the sake of youth and the avant-garde. Instead, it seemed, the avant-garde could be the radio barely audible in the dentist’s office, it could be Boca chic, it could be the laid-back sound we recognized as belonging to those who’d reached an age when the hard work was done and the living easy.
Recent Columbia grads Vampire Weekend named the aesthetic—the yacht-rock corollary to the yacht-wear, as it were—on their summery, self-released, self-titled EP. They called it “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Brooklyn’s Artanker Convoy called it Cozy Endings. Even out-of-towners could see the trend coming: the Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstr say, who pulled records usually only glimpsed on Mom and Dad’s shelves for his August contribution to the chill-out mix series LateNightTales. These musicians, onstage in the city’s myriad clubs over the next few months, will carry with them the thrift-store smell of the obsolete and the comfortable, the unwanted and the adult—a pointed departure from downtown’s typically prolonged and touchy adolescence.
Vampire Weekend’s EP, polite to a fault, takes me back to when my parents tried on Nantucket Reds and listened to nothing but Paul Simon, but I know I’m not the only one. Brooklyn’s Artanker Convoy, who release records on experimental bastion the Social Registry, and who were a highlight of the label’s Summer Festival over in Gowanus a couple weeks back, delve into even lighter fare. Theirs is a singular achievement: to turn Kenny G and the type of trebly bass usually heard on high-dial FM radio into chic art-rock. “Rabbit,” from their recent Cozy Endings, dabbles in not just splashy straight-jazz cymbal tapping, but frankly smooth saxophone lines and a certain edible organ tone. At the end of the jam one guy says, “I think that smells like it’s ready,” and still gets corrected by a bandmate: “Yeah . . . just chill out.”
Artanker Convoy have no relation to cool as it’s defined in Manhattan: young good looks, high taste in art and fashion. Instead, these six outer-borough men with widow’s peaks work from the unfashionable inspiration of decrepit lite-rock, repurposing sunny scraps roundly rejected over on the left bank of the East River in order to craft something new.
New York culture wars can’t mean much to a guy like Lindstr whose primary residence is in Oslo, Norway, where he’s known for mining the spacey bombast of long-forgotten Italo-disco for capacious synth grooves and their inevitable, icy climaxes. So take LateNightTales as a coincidence. If Artanker Convoy’s jazzant-garde is a way of opting out, of aging to the point where being cool doesn’t matter, Lindstr mix is different—an elevation of the cheesy and the misbegot- ten to big-things status among overseas- gazing hipsters. Proto-progger Alf Emil Eik’s Christian rock gives way to Fern Kinney’s housewife disco, arena-goon Todd Rundgren’s “Born to Synthesize” vocodes all over Carly Simon’s piano-reggae “Why,” and the production duo Terje & Thomas invents, with the track “Regnbagnan,” the lonely genre of Euro-harmonica funk.
Oddly, money seems to never enter into it. You’d never mistake LateNightTales or Cozy Endings as a soundtrack for the trip out of the yuppie closet. Both are too bizarre, tweaked irreparably off their genre axes. Both artists—Vampire Weekend too, not to mention the Barry Manilow–inspired crooner Jens Lekman (who also comes to town next month) or the Beastie Boys, whose recent all-instrumental record owes as much to lite-FM as it does to their own past catalog—seem more like they’re looking for a break. It’s less a style of music than a type: sound that does anything but assert its own cool. In New York, that can be a hard thing to find.
Bill Callahan + Sir Richard Bishop
Highline Ballroom, $15, 9 p.m., highlineballroom.com
Two acoustic-plucking refugees here. One, Callahan, shedding his longtime Smog alias in favor of the words on his birth certificate; the other, Bishop, touring frantically in the wake of the dissolution of his band, the free-music pioneers Sun City Girls, due to the death of drummer Charles Gocher. Both have a lot to forget. As Callahan explained his name change to Pitchfork: “I look at my hands and I don’t know what they wrought in the past. Are they the hands of a bad man?”
“Farm Aid 2007: A Homegrown Festival”
Randall’s Island, $52–$1,502, doors noon, farmaid.org
Behold, college students! With Dave Matthews, Guster, Matisyahu, and Willie Nelson all on the same bill—not to mention a few curveballs like the Supersuckers and Montgomery Gentry tossed in for good measure—Farm Aid 2007 promises to be the greatest dorm-room poster mash-up of all time. If you have only one opportunity to buy drugs this year, this is it.
Knitting Factory, $10, doors 7 p.m., knittingfactory.com
No telling what a performance from Silver Apples, the legendary proto-electro oscillator duo of the late ’60s, holds in 2007—drummer Danny Taylor passed away two years ago. But mastermind and falsetto-demon Simeon Coxe is very much alive, and he’s promised a set list drawn almost exclusively from Silver Apples and Contact, their classic first two albums. This tour, the band’s first since 1999, is not to be missed.
Simian Mobile Disco
Blender Theater at Gramercy, $18, 9 p.m., livenation.com
Two former psych-rockers from the U.K., Simian became the house titans Simian Mobile Disco just in time to battle fellow EU members Justice for the love of music fans who could otherwise give a fuck about dance music. Justice, with their silver-and-black stage set, snatched up the metal guys; SMD won over most everyone else, probably because their Attack Decay Sustain Release sounded a bit less like a cat being brutally murdered.
Dan Deacon + Girl Talk + White Williams
Webster Hall, $20, 6 p.m., bowerypresents.com
Heads up here for White Williams, New York’s inevitably chilly response to the goon-out good times spun from the laptops of Girl Talk and Dan Deacon. If the latter two perform for the dancefloor, WW play strictly to the bathroom line: “Rush Rush”-era Blondie rides T. Rex’s “Jeepster” into the sunset while 16-year-old Internet know-it-alls suck dust and wonder just what the hell happened.
Björk + Klaxons
Madison Square Garden, $50.50–$76, 8 p.m., thegarden.com
Björk shares with M.I.A. the odd distinction of having reduced Timbaland to dullest-track status on her new record: a tribute to just how far out into space she’s working. Volta was a grab bag, no doubt, but her unpredictability adds a certain drama when she plays live. Klaxons, nu-ravers who neither rave nor sound particularly new, are her diametric opposite: regular guitar-rock guys in neon hoodies.
September 30–October 1
Webster Hall, $20, 8 p.m., bowerypresents.com
They don’t live in New York much anymore, and Panda Bear’s Person Pitch may well have been the perfect record they’ll never be able to make as a quartet, but from what we’ve
heard of Strawberry Jam, the band remains undaunted by their own success. Their live shows rank with the Hold Steady’s as far as New York bro-downs go, especially now that they’re so infrequent—go be with your fellow man!
Boris + Damon & Naomi + Michio Kurihara
Music Hall of Williamsburg, $15–$17, 9 p.m., musichallofwilliamsburg.com
No word yet on which Boris is showing up to New York’s newest venue—will it be the Motörheaded sleaze-rock trio of Pink or the time-lapsed shoegaze of their recent collabo with Ghost axeman Michio Kurihara? All signs point to the latter: Kurihara, who’s also performed with Damon & Naomi, is in the lineup as well. Hope for—nay, expect—a bill-spanning, mood-crushing finale.
Arcade Fire + LCD Soundsystem
Randall’s Island, doors 3:30 p.m., $39.50, bowerypresents.com
I don’t blame you if you’re already sick of hearing about this show. But facts are facts: LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver is the album hundreds if not thousands of New Yorkers will remember as the soundtrack to their lives in 2007. Said Murphy, in these pages: “Don’t come play a show with us and bring your B-game and phone it in and pose, pull a whole bunch of rock bullshit moves and emote and shit like that with us because I’ll fucking punch you in the face.”