Tag Archive | Steve Powers

Recommended Listening: Kurt Vile, Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile Wakin On A Pretty Daze CD Cover
Album Cover Art By Steve Powers!

When it comes to modern music, not much impresses me these days. If you look back over the past few years at any Top 10 Albums list I might have compiled – in those years where I was even able to cobble together such a list at all – you’ll see it’s comprised partly of comeback records by classic rockers, greatest hits packages or tribute albums that revisit the material of a legendary artist. That’s rather pathetic, I know, for a writer who once embraced the tagline ‘Rock Critic at Large,’ but it is what it is. I don’t apologize for being unable to shake the feeling that the best years for popular music are, for the most part, 30 – or even 40 – years behind us.

It if it weren’t for Australia’s Tame Impala, who’ve managed to harness a sound comparable to Led Zeppelin on downers, or Canada’s The Sheepdogs, who pay homage to the seventies better than most bands did back in the ‘70s, there probably wouldn’t be one new band I could name in the past few years whose records gave me any kind of a thrill at all. And then there’s an enigma like Kurt Vile; a singer/songwriter/guitarist whose Murmur-esque vocal delivery is coupled with an amazing finesse for musical arrangements and an ability to turn a phrase that rivals Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. On Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze, his follow-up to 2011′s brilliant Smoke Ring for My Halo, Vile once again completely and totally blows my mind.

In search of a contemporary reference, I’d say that Kurt Vile keeps company with fellow singer/songwriter and innovator Joseph Arthur, who possesses an equal gift for infusing seductive aural melancholia with an exhilarating emotional transcendence. Like Arthur, Vile’s lyrics are wickedly introspective and his knack for finely tuned word economy is juxtaposed with jam-heavy arrangements that indicate Vile is in no hurry to get where he’s going. The nine-minute-plus title track launches the disc with Vile’s countrified acoustic strumming that carry his dreamlike musings about what might be in store for the next 18 or so waking hours, as circular guitar patterns draw the listener deeply into the artist’s head. In fact, “Head Music” is not an entirely inappropriate label for these eleven aural journeys that play out over the course of a full, blissful hour.

And just in case you drifted away, the comparatively strident opening chords of “KV Crimes” jolts you back to consciousness before the hand percussion-driven, traveling rhythm of “Was All Talk” swallows you whole with its limitless gorgeousness. Over five albums worth of material, I don’t know if Vile has written a better song than this. “There was a time in my life when they thought I was all talk,” is such an exquisitely personal fuck you to naysayers, while remaining ambiguous enough to allow the listener to adopt the song as his or her own anthem of self realization. And when he sings, “Making music is easy – watch me,” one could believe that this song effortlessly flowed right through Vile. Seriously, when it comes to amazing songwriting, “Was All Talk” is right up there with “All The Young Dudes” and “Shake Some Action.” The fact that Vile lets a song that could have been neatly wrapped up in three and a half minutes continue on for over seven makes it all the more bittersweet when it finally comes to an end.

What’s most amazing about Wakin On A Pretty Daze is that every song on the record is that good. Each track packs a jaw-dropping Oh Wow Factor that makes my head explode. “Girl Called Alex” mines the minor chord gloom in a way that recalls a meatier version of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” or Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Showcasing Vile’s flair for changing up arrangements, “Pure Pain” alternates between what I’d call a baroque stomp and a waltz. The remaining tracks could be summed up as follows: great, great, great, great, great. I recommend you pick up a copy of Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze and start developing your own relationship with a disc that I am just going to go ahead and call the Album of The Year.

Grade: A+

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Steve Powers Designs Upcoming Kurt Vile Album Artwork

Wakin On a Pretty Daze
Photo by Jessie Trbovich

I was so crazy about Kurt Vile’s 2011 release, Smoke Ring For My Halo that I could not possibly be more excited to hear that he has a new CD coming out in 2013, entitled Wakin on a Pretty Daze. What makes this news even cooler is the announcment that the album cover art, seen as a street mural in the photo above, is by contemporary painter Steve “Stephen” Powers, whose fun and original work I was introduced to this past summer at an exhibit at Joshua Liner Gallery. This mural, which I am guessing depicts the names of songs found on the album, is located at the intersection of Front and Master Streets in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, where Vile is from. Produced by John Agnello, and described by Vile as being comparable to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, but “No cheese, just rock,” Wakin on a Pretty Daze is due out in the spring.

Joshua Liner Presents Stephen Powers’ A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Stephen Powers Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Oh, what a night! Thursday, September 6th, 2012 not only marked the party-filled kick off of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week here in NYC, but the evening also launched the reopening of many of our favorite Chelsea art Galleries after a too-long summer of dormancy. Well into the balmy evening (summer ain’t over yet!), the streets of Chelsea were as teaming with excited art fans as Times Square is with tourists at midday! The Art is back!

Stephen Powers Funny Because It's True
Funny Because It’s True By Stephen Powers

We started off our evening’s crawl on 28th Street with a much-anticipated visit to the Joshua Liner Gallery – where we try to never miss an opening reception! Currently, Liner is hosting Stephen Powers’ A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures, which is just fantastic fun!

Stephen Powers Pour Trait of The Artist
Pour Trait of The Artist

In this new exhibition series, Powers presents a panoramic assemblage of enamel on aluminum paintings that occupy both gallery rooms. These colorful and engaging works – which reminded me a bit of the complex Rebus Puzzles of the Concentration Game Show — range from 10-by 8-inches to 8 by 16-feet.

Stephen Powers Fresh Peach
Fresh Peach

Stephen Powers Adore
Adore (2 of a Series of 3)

Stephen Powers is perhaps best known for public artworks that fuse sign painting, graffiti, words and images, and he creates a new form of public art that is collaborative and personal. I enjoyed finding clever messages hidden in the larger works and isolating various details which emphasize the paintings’ wry humor. If you are a fan of Mad Magazine or The National Lampoon, Powers’ work will certainly resonate with you. See some of those details below.

Stephen Powers Detail From Funny Because It's True
Easy Street Closed for Repairs: Detail From Funny Because It’s True

Stephen Powers All Eggs in One Basket Detail from Day Seizer
All My Eggs Fit in One (Basket): Detail from Day Seizer

Stephen Powers Undo My Life Detail from Larger Work
Undo My Life: Detail from Larger Work

Stephen Powers’ A Word is Worth A Thousand Pictures will be on exhibit through September 29, 2012 at the Joshuia Liner Gallery, Located at 548 West 28th Street, 3rd Floor, New York City. Gallery Hours are Tuesday — Saturday 11:00 AM — 6:00 PM

See more photos and read Geoffrey’s take on the exhibit at This Link.

Stephen Powers Icy Sign

Jonathan Levine Gallery Presents Detournement: Signs of the Times

Levine Detournement Invite

The Image Above Courtesy of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. All Other Photos by Gail Worley

Worley Gig has taken a bit of a break from Gallery hopping this summer: partly because lots of the galleries are on their summer hiatus and partly because we’ve just been too busy doing other fun things. Oh, New York Contemporary Art Scene, how we have missed you. But what better way to get re-immersed in the vibrant Chelsea gallery scene than with Jonathan LeVine Gallery’s latest group show, Détournement: Signs of the Times, brilliantly curated by Carlo McCormick, which opened this past Thursday. We’d especially like to thank the gallery’s Associate Director, Malena Seldin for allowing The Gig to photograph the show in the empty gallery prior to the start of Thursday night’s opening reception.

Bright Future Save Petrol By Shepard Fairey
Bright Future By Shepard Fairey in collaboration with Jamie Reid

Much like Opera Gallery’s Streets of The World group show this past May, Détournement features the work of many of the most famous contemporary pop and street artists currently working, including:

AIKO, Dan Witz, David Wojnarowicz (estate), Dylan Egon, EINE, Ilona Granet, Jack Pierson, John Law (Jack Napier), Leo Fitzpatrick, Mark Flood, Martin Wong (estate), Max Rippon (RIPO), Mike Osterhout, Posterboy, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Steve Powers (aka ESPO), TrustoCorp, Will Boone and Zevs.

Carlo McCormick offers the following statement about the show:

A détournement is a detour of sorts, but not so much along the scenic route as over the tougher road that goes more directly to the truth. A more proximate translation from the French might be a derailment, but I’m not sure English is so well suited to get both the violence and hilarity of the term. Since coined by the Lettrist International in the 1950s, it has served various generations as a common strategy by which to subvert consensus visual language so as to turn the expressions of capitalist culture against themselves. The most typical folkloric version we encounter of a détournement is when someone writes a word at the bottom of a stop sign, so that with say just three letters this mundane road command might read “Stop War.”

Sign Language Stop Sign By Martin Wong (estate)

Traffic Signs for the Hearing Impaired By Martin Wong (estate)

The idea of an artist co-opting a popular commercial slogan or iconic symbol is not new, but it is done here in ways that create a visceral reaction in the viewer and encourage imaginative extrapolation and discourse. Not to mention, but you can see I am about to, the fact that this show just makes a gorgeous visual presentation. A few of my favorite images are Dan Witz’s series of “Do Not Enter” signs, which range from whimsical to horrifying.

No Entry Dive By Dan Witz
Man of Sorrows By Dan Witz

No Entry Severed Arms By Dan Witz
Peter (Hanging) – collaboration with Till Krautkraemer, By Dan Witz

Ron English also gets one entire wall of the rear gallery dedicated to his mural comprised of a series of darkly satirical grocery store flyers, accompanied by one of his popular reoccurring characters, the sexually anthropomorphized cow:

Ron English Grocery Ad Wall
Incredible Edible Cathy Cowgirl By Ron English

Ron English Grocery Ad Detail Close Up
Human Flesh Detail from Ron English Mural

Of course, two of our favorite brands, Coca Cola and Apple, do not escape unscathed:

Cocal Cola Logo Drip By Zevs
Liquidated Coca-Cola By Zevs

Think Doomed Amelia Earhart By John Law (Jack Napier)
Doomed (Photographed Billboard) By John Law (Jack Napier), Billboard Liberation Front

If you’re outside the tri-state area you can view the works of Detournement online and read more about the exhibit and participating artists at This Link. Otherwise, make a trip to see the show in person before it closes at the end of this month.

See More Photos from this Exhibit After the Jump!

Detournement: Signs of the Times will be on exhibit through August 25, 2012 only at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 West 20th Street (West of 10th Avenue), 9th Floor in Chelsea, NYC. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM.

FaceBook Logo By Posterboy
Self Snitch By Posterboy

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