After the all-consuming election drama leading up to the midterms, and the ramifications from the results, there’s some great live music happening locally this month that we can fall back on for comfort and some much-needed diversion. From Bob Dylan’s string of shows at the Beacon Theatre, to Elton John’s farewell concerts at Madison Square Garden, to hot rock-band-of-the-moment Greta Van Fleet‘s sold-out appearances at Terminal 5, there’s a lot happening musically in November. And of course, there are other artists in town who shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s a list of five notable acts to check out.
The backstory behind Exploded View, who will be appearing at Rough Trade on November 8, is rather interesting: singer Annika Henderson was raised in Wales and currently resides in Berlin, while her other bandmates Hugo Quezada and Martin Thulin are based in Mexico City, which is also where the album was recorded. But there’s no language or cultural barrier on the group’s latest album Obey. This post-punk-meets-krautrock stew is a work of contradiction: it feels both cohesive and dissonant, accessible and experimental, and alive and claustrophobic. Harsh-sounding and buzzing songs like “Sleepers” and “Come on Honey” co-exist with the more dreamy compositions like Letting Go of Childhood Dreams and “Raven Raven.” One can hear a diverse range of influences on Obey, from the Jesus and Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails, to Can and Gary Numan; Henderson’s deadpan yet commanding vocal is quite reminiscent of the legendary German chanteuse Nico. Both the music and the lyrics on Obey are unsettling at times but also quite hypnotic.
Also playing at Rough Trade NYC is Louisville, Kentucky-based indie folk singer Tomberlin on November 14, in support of her recent and excellent debut album, At Weddings. If the music from Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s record sound very spiritual, it could be traced to her church background church and that her father was a Baptist pastor. Accompanied by a voice that echoes Sharon Van Etten and Julien Baker, Tomberlin’s music is both ethereal and unsettling and its lyrics go way deep in personal reflection and yearning. The track “Seventeen” perfectly captures the angst and joy of young love, while “I’m Not Scared” is heartfelt and haunting with an unforgettable lyric of “To be a woman is to be in pain.” There are some touches of electric guitar, piano, strings, and some sonic effects to give the music an otherworldly feel but for the most part, Tomberlin’s album is deeply spiritual and rooted in soul searching.
Gracing the stage at Brooklyn Steel on November 16 is Wild Nothing, the project of Los Angeles musician Jack Tatum. This past summer, Wild Nothing released its fourth album, Indigo, whose sound effortlessly recalls the ’80s post-punk, New Romantic, and synth-pop genres. From the opening and exuberant track “Letting Go,” the songs on Indigo convey moments of futuristic escapism and fantasy with gorgeous melodies, atmospheric textures, and Tatum’s pristine voice; standout tracks include the romantic-sounding “Partners in Motion,” the robotic chill of “Bend,” the hypnotic “Shallow Water,” the soaring “Canyon on Fire,” and the wistful “Through Windows.” But don’t call it a trip in nostalgia—as much as Tatum’s sound evokes the past for a generation raised on ’80s synth-pop, it feels quite contemporary in the current climate of chillwave and dream pop.
The most-well known act in this roundup are the legendary Pixies. While Bob Dylan is doing a residency at the Beacon this month, Pixies is performing three consecutive shows at Brooklyn Steel from November 18 to 20 (the first one is sold out), the group is marking a milestone this year: it’s the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut Surfer Rosa, which has since become as one of Pixies’ best albums (it was an influence on Nirvana’s Nevermind album, according to Kurt Cobain). Tracks from that classic record such as “Vamos, “Cactus,” “Bone Machine,” “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic” are still part of the band’s touring setlist. To celebrate the occasion, Pixies recently released a boxed set titled Come On Pilgrim…It’s Surfer Rosa, which combines Surfer Rosa with the group’s 1987 EP Come On Pilgrim and Live From the Fallout Shelter, a radio concert recording from 1986. For that occasion, the band will surely perform cuts from Surfer Rosa other favorites, all of which still sound timeless three decades later.
Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter Laura Gibson returns to her former stomping ground of New York City for a show at Rough Trade NYC on November 27 (She had previously lived in the Big Apple while getting her master’s degree in creative writing at Hunter College; her apartment was lost in the tragic 2015 East Village gas explosion). The mood and lyrical sentiment on her fifth and latest album, Goners, seem quite fitting in these frantic and uncertain times. In explaining the new album, Gibson had said: “I’d known for a long time that I wanted to make a record about grief. In some ways, every song I’ve ever written has something to do with grief.” In a way, Goners is a soundtrack for those who feel loss either in a literal or figurative sense; the music spans folk, Americana, and baroque-sounding pop, verging between mostly acoustic folk ballads and upbeat-sounding and driving sounds; Gibson’s singing recalls a little bit of Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux, and Karen Dalton. Certainly the lyric from the title song seem to sum up the albums’ purpose quite fittingly: “If we’re already goners, why wait any longer, for something to crack open.”