Landlady in The New York Times
Playing in a Part of Something Bigger
Landlady Previews Its First Album at Rough Trade NYC
By JON PARELES
JULY 2, 2014
The musicians spilled off the stage when Adam Schatz’s rock band Landlady performed on Tuesday night at Rough Trade NYC. By the end of the set, there were a dozen horn players and half a dozen drummers and percussionists along with Mr. Schatz and Landlady’s core musicians, blaring and pounding as Mr. Schatz pushed the audience to sing along. It was an album party through a show of community. “This is such a special way to feel like you’re a part of something bigger,” Mr. Schatz announced as the musicians assembled. Mr. Schatz, who is also a jazz concert promoter, works with many other bands as well as Landlady, playing rock, funk, jazz, Afrobeat and improvisation. Landlady’s more-or-less pop songs hold a little of them all.
Landlady releases its debut album, “Upright Behavior” (Hometapes), this month. It joins a lineage of New York City art-rock bands that transmute existential questions and primal fears into exultant songs, bands like Talking Heads, TV on the Radio and Dirty Projectors. “What am I supposed to do about it? Dying day,” Mr. Schatz sang, confronting mortality with confidence and exasperation in his piquantly reedy voice. The arrangement galloped in start-stop bursts hinting at African music, lingered in a sustained shimmer, slowed down to hint at reggae and tossed around some 1950s doo-wop vocal harmonies before it was done.
There’s erudition and ingenuity in Landlady’s music, which often changes radically from verse to verse, even behind Mr. Schatz’s most straightforward melodies. The penetrating tone of Mr. Schatz’s Farfisa organ summons garage-rock and international psychedelia; crisp percussion patterns, moving in and out of odd meters, touch on carnivals, military parades, Minimalism, swing and world music. Guitar lines can have the delicacy of folk-rock, the lilt of Congolese rumba or a spaghetti-western twang. The horns, when they joined Landlady onstage, offered big shared drones or overlapping riffs.
Along with songs from Landlady’s album, the set included a transmogrified version of a Talking Heads song, “Mind,” that started as a dissonant ostinato, heaved toward rock, eased into a kind of tango and briefly erupted into guitar noise. Perhaps Mr. Schatz was describing Landlady when he sang in “The Globe,” a song of his own: “Been staring at the globe too long/Put the pieces back together wrong.”
The concert’s finale was “Above My Ground,” a march with lyrics of mourning: “I wish that you were still around,” it begins. Mr. Schatz beckoned the audience to get close to the stage, and midway through the song started to preach, almost gospel style, about how all people are connected, because they’ve shared a sense of loss. He got the audience singing, “Always, always” as the music climbed louder and higher, a happy din of cross-rhythms and hooting horns, with his voice rising toward yelps and whoops. He was singing about feeling alone, amid abundant proof that he was not.
Photo by Ruby Washington/The New York Times