North Highlands, ARMS

Late Show

North Highlands

ARMS

Hospitality

Wed, July 27, 2011

Doors: 8:45 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

$10 advance / $10 day of show

This event is 21 and over

North Highlands - (Set time: 10:30 PM)
North Highlands
North Highlands—the place, not the band—is, as Brenda Malvini puts it, “a gnarly suburb trapped in time. It sounds like a beautiful name but it’s not a beautiful place.” Located just outside of Sacramento, North Highlands once housed a military base, and also Brenda, who relocated to New York City as quickly as the town would let her out. She went to NYU, where the majority of North Highlands—we’re talking about the band now—also went, all of them “graduating or not graduating,” as they put it, a couple of years ago. Brenda was writing songs, but keeping them secret, until a friend booked her a show and said, “do it.” Unable to resist, Brenda enlisted her friends to fill out the bill. Mike Barron helped out on guitar, Jasper Berg on percussion, Daniel Stewart on guitar, violin, and mandolin and Andy Kasperbauer on bass.



The result of the show was the band, and later, the record. Brenda rewrote the lyrics to the songs right before recording them, which might contribute to their casual, communal, spontaneous feel. Her voice is like a cross between Jolie Holland’s gravelly birdsong and something softer—she sings like a woman who is weary but not too much so yet. She’s still audibly young. “Benefits,” the band’s first single, is about that weariness. Brenda puts it simply, “it’s when you work hard your whole life and then it isn’t enough.” It’s not a sad song, though, not exactly. “You realize that,” and you can hear her smiling when she says it, “and you just say fuck it and go dancing.” “Benefits” also comes with a counterpoint. “Bruce” is also about the sad realization that everything just sucks sometimes, and about how sometimes you can’t go dancing, you just have to give it up, say fuck it, and hide in a hole for awhile.



Their debut LP Wild One will be available on October 18, 2011.
ARMS - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
ARMS
"I was exhausted," says Todd Goldstein, reflecting on the years since the release of his band ARMS' lush, ambitious 2011 album, Summer Skills. "I put everything I had into that album—creatively, emotionally—I had nothing left in me." After spending his mid-20s playing guitar in New York's much-loved Harlem Shakes and the ensuing years crafting two albums and an EP as ARMS, Todd took a sharp turn away from music. He went back to school to study design; he spent long afternoons throwing down in the kitchen; he looked elsewhere to find his creative kicks. Eventually though, he remembered why he can't help but write songs. ARMS' EP2 is the proof.

The product of a long, slow collaboration with drummer Tlacael Esparza, EP2 feels both urgent and relaxed, its five home-recorded pop songs projecting a lived-in looseness without sacrificing an ounce of tension. "Comfort," the EP's opening track, seems at first to be about music—or a girl. But, unlike most love songs that pull this double duty, the message of "Comfort" is unexpected: Neither one is a prescription for the ailments of real life. "Sleepwalker" plays like an insomniac's wake-up call, dressing a careening rhythm in melancholic guitar figures and peals of glowing distortion, while "Up & Up" is the late-night ripper, an album closing comedown that refuses to land. EP2 is the sound of a kid with a worried mind—a frequent character in Todd's musical universe—learning to let go at last. It only seems right that ARMS' leanest, most immediate record would finally arrive after leaving it all behind.

ARMS is Todd Goldstein and Tlacael Esparza. ARMS has shared the stage with Passion Pit, Walkmen, Beach House, White Rabbits, The Long Winters, A Place to Bury Strangers, Japandroids, Hospitality, Caveman, Asobi Seksu, and more.
Hospitality - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Hospitality
The first thing you might notice about Hospitality’s sophomore album Trouble is what you don’t hear. The process of completing Trouble was, for the band, one of learning to accept silence, to let that empty space exist no matter what it might awaken or evoke. You could catch glimpses of these dark and unexplored places in the margins of Hospitality’s 2012 self-titled debut, but they are at the very heart of Trouble. If you listen closely, you can hear a band pushing against their own boundaries and limitations until they find the very air around them subtly but perceptibly changed.

The trio of Amber Papini (guitar, vocals), Brian Betancourt (bass), and Nathan Michel (drums) approach Trouble with the force and unity of a well-rehearsed touring rock band. They supplement their performances with strategically placed strings, synthesizers, and drum machines. But silence is an inescapable force on Trouble, an invisible fourth player that draws you into the unexplored corners of familiar sounds: the full, ghostly decay of a reverb tail, the round pluck of a bass string, the exact syllables where a doubled vocal line diverges.

In its lyrics and its musical construction, Trouble is an album that wonders about the mysteries that lurk just beyond our field of vision. Slyly and sympathetically, Papini ponders a Saturday afternoon fishing trip as a wrenching interplay of life and death, the perfect blue sky at an air show as a setting for a soured romance. Papini elaborates: “Most of the songs are about everyday environments that arouse anxiety or unease. The ocean isn’t meant for people; we aren’t supposed to be there, and some of the animals that live there are much bigger and faster than we are in the water. I think a lot of the songs deal with this ‘out of place’ kind of theme, feelings of unease and the questions of what is under you or what surrounds you.”

Trouble creates a space where conflicting sentiments and experiences are given room to coexist, where small and seemingly mundane observations pose big questions that hang in the air, unanswered and unanswerable. With a title referencing the artist’s endless struggle in the battle between creativity and outside forces, Trouble also explores the universal themes of loss, love, and loneliness with Papini’s trademark wit. Lines like “And if I’m lost and low / And need you / I’ll disconnect the line” from “Inauguration” somehow make the ultimate kiss-off seem charming, while nature makes clear the loneliness felt when leaving someone you love behind in these lines from “I Miss Your Bones”: “And all the stars will / Twinkle in the midst of a sea / Of black and lonely /An everlasting loss lack abyss.”

It’s fitting that the album was hashed out in band practices that blurred the boundaries between work and leisure, darkness and light, creative collaboration and friendship. Foregoing the usual nighttime hours kept by musicians, the band chose to work on these songs during daily morning rehearsals that proved in many ways more demanding than characteristically relaxed nighttime gatherings. Through these sessions, the band sought to take their music as far as they possibly could as a three-piece, to make sure that every small gesture fell into place and played a vital role in constructing the shape and feel of the songs.

The band carried this daylight-infused clearheadedness with them into the studio with chief arranger Nathan Michel and engineer Matt Boynton acting as co-producers. Nathan describes the process: “We really wanted to avoid the ornamental, but I always like to add more sounds. Matt was helpful in keeping the arrangements as simple and direct as possible. We all wanted the record to have a warm and open sound.” When put to tape, some of the songs for Trouble worked better than expected as fierce and focused trio performances, while others called for more substantial reimaginings. “I Miss Your Bones” emerged almost entirely from a live performance, while “Inauguration” found the band ripping apart their live arrangement and reconstructing the song with drum machines and synthesizers.


The album unfolds like a walk on the beach or a journey to a place you didn’t know you were going. Perhaps a darker sound overall, but Trouble begins with the trademark Hospitality pop then unfurls to reward the listener with the more expansive stripped-down instrumentation of side B. And here, again, is that distinctively present silence, creating a space where an undulating synthesizer feels as alive and mysterious as a single voice in a room.
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002
http://mercuryloungenyc.com