First Impressions Of New LP: The Strokes Kick Of 2020 With Promise Of Next Album

The long-dormant Strokes rang in 2020 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with help from Mac DeMarco and Hinds. Julian Casablancas and Co. not only played a couple new songs but also informed the crowd that a new album was on its way in the new year. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there and, after midnight, could see the city lights ahead.

Live Review: Robyn Hitchcock, Sellersville, PA, Nov. 9, 2019

A dreary Sunday found Robyn Hitchcock in an agreeably peculiar mood, chatting even more than usual about lizards on the loose in downtown Sellersville, Pa.; the Ray-Bans that link Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Brian Jones and his grandmother; dead cats; and toxic ex-friends. The spirit of impeachments past and future infused it all—especially “1974” and the two-song encore of “Sinister But She Was Happy” and a slow, soft take on “I Wanna Destroy You” that he dedicated to “Boris, Donald and Boris.”

Musically, Hitchcock explored another plane with lovely guitar work on “The Lizard” and “I’m Only You,” while it was a rare treat to hear him play keyboards on “Flavour Of Night,” “Somewhere Apart,” “Ted, Woody And Junior” and “Those Guys Are All Dead Now.”

Other highlights: “Only The Stones Remain,” “Fifty Two Stations,” “Sunday Never Comes,” “Glass” and “Sayonara, Judge.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Live Review: Jay Som, Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 29, 2019

Working its mellow magic to a rapt crowd at The Foundry, Jay Som proved you don’t have to take up every inch of sonic space to get attention. Unbothered by the occasional outburst from Sum 41 coming from The Fillmore’s bigger room below, Melina Duterte and her band traveled at their own speed, meandering through the pretty pop of Anak Ko and Everybody Works with tender hearts and steady hands.

Fellow Californians Boy Scouts served Jay Som well as an opener, with a similarly calm demeanor and smooth melodies to match.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Boy Scouts

Live Review: Superchunk, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 5, 2019

Is it more awkward for a band to rip through a set of frenzied songs about a fresh breakup between two members while one of the parties plays wordlessly onstage, or for a band to unhurriedly unpack the same set of songs on acoustic guitars 25 years later while one of the parties stays home?

Superchunk—minus bassist Laura Ballance, who still records with the group but no longer tours—revisited 1994’s Foolish at World Cafe Live, and it was no more or less awkward than being in a room with acquaintances you don’t really know how to talk to anymore, wiggling with restraint in your seat to tunes you once moshed to, or shoehorning a saxophone into an indie-rock song.

Life’s awkward. Keep going anyway.

Promoting the recent Acoustic Foolish release (a.k.a. Superchunk AF), Mac McCaughan, Jim Wilbur and Jon Wurster did right by the material, taking the edge off songs like “Water Wings” and “Why Do You Have To Put A Date On Everything?” and adding depth by transmuting their pain and bitterness into a dull ache.

With Jason Narducy sitting in for Ballance and Matt Douglas adding keys and sax, the quintet stretched out on “Stretched Out” “Kicked In” and “Keeping Track.” After running through Foolish’s dozen tracks, they returned for a four-song encore that culminated, appropriately enough, in a relatively slack take on “Slack Motherfucker.”

McCaughan joked that he’d suggested skipping the last few songs from Foolish but Wilbur had convinced him that they were “for the heads,” and when the frontman observed how many musical parts sounded like R.E.M., Wurster dutifully teased the drum intro to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

Torres—Mackenzie Scott, solo—opened with a short-yet-pointed mix of older songs (“New Skin,” “Sprinter”) and material from her next album, Silver Tongue (“Good Scare,” “Gracious Day”).

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich