Last year’s collaboration between St. Vincent (Annie Clarke) and David Bryne was surprising on many levels. The album they wrote and recorded together, Love This Giant, is inspired and artful, if not as immediately accessible as some of the solo work each of them has made in the past. On stage, performed live at the Strathmore music hall in Bethesda, MD, the songs found their heart and soul. A band of brilliant brass players made the tunes swing a lot more than they do on the record. Love This Giant allowed both Byrne and Clark to make songs that were slightly out of their comfort zones; they dug into less familiar territory and found something fresh. When performed live, new songs such as “Who” and “I Am an Ape” sound powerful. But old favorites also surfaced from their solo catalogs, whether it was Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” or the Byrne-Eno collaboration “Strange Overtones,” or St. Vincent performing “Marrow” from her 2009 album Actor. All of these performances became less about nostalgia or their individual fame, and more about creation and building on something great, from a pair of strong creative souls born 30 years apart. As you watch the performance, keep an eye out for Kelly Pratt, formerly of the band Beirut, on lead horn, as well as fantastic synchronized dancing choreographed by Annie-B Parson. You can also see Byrne and Clark rehearse for the concert in this special video from our In Practice series.–BOB BOILEN
Annie Clark: Guitar/Vocals
David Byrne: Guitar/Vocals
Daniel Mintseris: Keyboards, Musical Director
Brian Wolfe: Drums
Kelly Pratt: Trumpet, Flugelhorn, French Horn, Flute
Dave Nelson: Trombone
Jon Natchez: Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone
Bryan Murray: Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone
Rachel Drehmann: French Horn
Jason Disu: Trombone
John Altieri: Sousaphone, Tuba
Carter Yasutake: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Before heading out on his own as a singer/songwriter, Kevin Morby was best known for his work with two different Brooklyn bands, the Babies and Woods. Based in Los Angeles, Morby originally moved from his native Kansas City to Brooklyn in the mid-2000s, eventually joining the noise folk group Woods on bass. While living in Brooklyn, he became close friends and roommates with Cassie Ramone of the punk trio Vivian Girls, and the two formed a side project together called the Babies, who released albums in 2011 and 2012. Following his move to L.A., Morby recorded a collection of songs with Babies producer Rob Barbato that was intended to be an homage to New York City. The new songs represented a stylistic shift into a more roots-oriented indie sound and also featured Babies drummer Justin Sullivan along with several other guest artists. Released in 2013 by Woodsist Records, the eight-song collection was called Harlem River and became Morby’s debut as a solo artist.
In August of that year, Morby relocated from his Brooklyn dwellings to Los Angeles, quickly beginning work on what would become his second solo album, Still Life. The album was released yet again on the Woodsist label in late 2014. His next record was informed by two developments: he moved to a house with a piano; and he played in the Complete Last Waltz, a group formed to pay tribute to the music of the Band. The first changed the way he wrote songs; the second meant he hooked up with fellow bandmate Sam Cohen of Yellowbirds and the two began collaborating. The recording of Morby’s first album for his new label, Dead Oceans, took place in Woodstock, New York and featured appearances from keyboardist Marco Benevento and Quilt’s John Andrews on musical saw. Singing Saw was released in April of 2016. The following year, a companion-piece album, City Music, was released. Recorded at the analog-centric Panoramic House studio in rural West Marin, California and prominently featuring its 19th century pump organ, the album saw Morby channeling Lou Reed and Patti Smith in a collection of introspective vignettes.
This 21-year-old Maltese-Australian got a guitar from her grandfather when she was three, she says, and has played it every day since. It’s astonishing to watch Sultana’s fluidity on her instrument, like a natural extension of her body. (She also plays bass, saxophone, trumpet, flute and more, but kept it “simple” at the Tiny Desk.) I thought I had a lot of energy — watching her bounce from guitar to drum machine to two separate microphones — and then hopping barefoot from looping pedal to effect pedal as she builds her songs was exhilarating and exhausting. There’s more here than an exercise in virtuosity, her music is filled with adventure and ambition. These songs are rapturous and resonant.
Formed in 2015, Vanishing Twin came together to make an exploratory record that marries oblique English pop with a palette of arkestral sounds. Having previously released a string of conceptual cassettes under the name Orlando, founder Cathy Lucas named the group after her vanishing twin, an identical sister absorbed in utero, when they were both still a cluster of cells.
Enlisting the help of producer Malcolm Catto (Heliocentrics, DJ Shadow, The Gaslamp Killer) the band began work at his London studio, Quatermass Sound Lab, last spring. Recording the basis for eight tracks, they blended structure and improvisation in pop songs that describe a personal mythology through the adventures of Lucas’
vanished twin. Drawing on sounds outside of the usual pop
vocabulary, the group used forgotten drum machines, home-made electronics, vibraphones, tablas, and harp to invoke the esoteric psychedelia of lost soundtracks, radiophonic experiments and minimal music orchestras. In a studio that Catto built for maximum atmosphere and minimum interfere, and crammed with obscure vintage equipment, he brought his own distinctive sonics to the table, informed by outsider jazz, Italian library music and ethnographic field recordings.
The band has previously been championed by the likes of Gilles Peterson and the Quietus. They played widely in 2015 presenting an immersive show that is equal parts crafted sound and improvised delirium. Vanishing Twin is made up of singer Cathy Lucas (Innerspace Orchestra), drummer Valentina Magaletti (Raime, Tomaga, Uuuu, Neon Neon), bassist Susumu Mukai (Zongamin, Floating Points), library music head Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus, Broadcast) on strange sounds, and film maker and visual artist Elliott Arndt on flute and percussion.
There’s a decent chance you’re about to discover your favorite new band. Based in San Francisco and led by Liam McCormick, The Family Crest builds its songs from a combination of infectious enthusiasm and powerful talent. The group owes its huge sound not just to its seven members, but to the community that records and plays with them. Eighty people are credited on The Family Crest’s first album, Beneath the Brine.At the Tiny Desk, we heard from seven players with training in classical and jazz, as well as instruments including violin, cello, upright bass, flute, trombone, drums, guitar and McCormick’s voice. And what a voice: Trained as an opera singer but with a hunger for jazz, he’s one of those fortunate souls with plenty to express and the range to deliver. The three songs performed here give you a sense of what The Family Crest can do, though Beneath the Brine is what you’ll want to hear once your jaw has dropped watching this.
Daniel Lanois (born September 19, 1951 in Hull, Québec is a Canadian record producer and singer-songwriter. He has produced albums for a wide variety of artists and released a number of albums of his own work. Artists he has worked with include Bob Dylan, U2, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, Chris Whitley, Ron Sexsmith and Nash the Slash.
He started his production career working in his own studio, Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, Ontario. He worked with a number of local bands, most notably Martha and the Muffins, for whom his sister Jocelyne played bass, Ray Materick, as well as the Canadian children’s singer Raffi.
After being discovered by Brian Eno and working collaboratively with him on some of Eno’s own projects, his career was given a huge boost when Eno invited him to co-produce U2’s album The Unforgettable Fire. Along with Eno, he went on to produce U2’s The Joshua Tree, the 1987 Grammy Winner for Album of the Year. Bono of U2 recommended Lanois to Bob Dylan in the late 1980s; in 1989 Lanois produced Dylan’s Oh Mercy, widely considered one of Dylan’s greatest later albums. Eight years later Dylan and Lanois worked together on Time Out of Mind, Dylan’s first studio album of original material since 1990, which won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1997.