2008 In Review, Vol. 4 - Basement Band

New York’s Basement Band caught my ear earlier this year when the sweet alt country sing along “Nine Days” was featured on a compilation for Kill Buffalo Records. Sporadically over the next few months I checked in on the band’s myspace for recording updates, and eventually was pleased to find they had released their debut album. I said it at the time, but it’s worth repeating - Until The Evening Came is a remarkably consistent collection of dusty folk-rock gems, barreling barroom honky-tonk, and soaring harmonies.

“Nine Days” is one of the record’s key tracks. Its multi-part harmonies and breezy country rock sway sound like Crosby, Stills, & Nash jamming with Stranger’s Almanac-era Whiskeytown. “Soldiers” is another highpoint on an album full of them. Its vivid detail of young men going off to war could very easily be set during any point in U.S. history. The song earned lead singer/songwriter Jeff Malinowski a 2nd place finish in the 2007 Williamsburg Songwriters Contest. At a time when top notch alternative country records that recall the genre’s mid-90’s glory days are all but extinct, it’s refreshing to find a band that does it so exceptionally well.
Malinowski was kind enough to put together this reflection on some of his (and his bandmates) favorite music, shows, venues, amps, TV, & pizza joints of 2008. Keep an eye out for the Basement Band in 2009 as they try to spread their wings beyond NYC and the Northeast:

Hey y'all,

So we've had a pretty exciting year. We released our first record which felt great and James has been nice enough to say some really kind words about it here on the blog. We've also gone through some lineup changes but we're all really psyched about where we're headed in 2009. We'll be playing a ton in NYC and hopefully elsewhere so we hope to see y'all at the shows. Here's a little list of some of our fav stuff in 2008.


Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch - this album kick-started an unhealthy Tom Petty addiction I've been battling the past few months. Mudcrutch is Petty's band prior to the Heartbreakers which he reunited last year. The album was recorded over a matter of days in the Heartbreakers rehearsal space, completely live. Mix Magazine has an awesome article on the making of. Because it's recorded live, it's got this amazing vibe to it. Benmont Tench's organ riffs are often reminiscent of Garth Hudson circa "The Basement Tapes" and Mike Campbell's B-bender tele is half singing pedal steel and half "Exile On Main St" Keith. For me, many of Tom Petty's greatest songs are marred by slick 80's production and this album couldn't be further from that so while the tunes aren't as classic as the ones on "Full Moon Fever," they sound great!

Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago - Though this album originally came my way in the fall of last year, For Emma, Forever Ago received official release via Jagjaguar records in 2008 and we each went through our own little obsessive period with this record at some point this year. I was initially drawn to it because of the story: Guy holes up in a cabin for a winter and writes & records an album. It's something we've all fantasied about doing. The unique production and beautiful harmonies really make this record stand out but I think what kept me coming back to it were the songs. The lyrics especially, though often shrouded in dense vocal layers, offer such great imagery. In the album closer (and my personal fav track) "re:Stacks" he sings, "There's a black crow sitting across from me; his wiry legs are crossed. He's dangling my keys, he even fakes a toss" and I'm instantly transported to a park bench in the middle of a some freezing Wisconsin snowscape. Looking forward to hearing what the full band version of Bon Iver will sound like on record.

Neil Young - Sugar Mountain: Live from the Canterbury House 1968 - Even though this disc hit stands only days ago, I've got to include the latest release from the Neil Young Archives, Sugar Mountain: Live from the Canterbury House 1968 on a "Best of 2008" list. The show is the earliest document of solo Neil available and is an amazing snapshot of a young artist in transition. Even Neil says during one of his many, lengthy in-between-song rants, "I used to be a guitar player," speaking of his days with the at-the-time recently defunct Buffalo Springfield. He's clearly a little uncomfortable with having all eyes on him but handles it amazingly well and seems to really connect The recording itself is a real wonder. Besides a bit of tape hiss (to be expected with a 40 year old live recording) the quality is pretty amazing. You can hear all the little details of Neil's playing but there's also a great ambience to it that really puts you in the room. I hope Neil's got a whole closet full of unreleased shows like this one.


Levon Helm at Mountain Jam - After a long weekend of sleepless nights and jamtastic southern rock, Levon and his Ramble band gave me quite the pick me up. It's impossible to not be sucked in to all the fun that the musicians on stage and you can tell by their ring leader's huge grin that he's having the time of his life.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals at some little cafe - on the release day of Cardinology, Ryan Adams, alongwith guitarist Neal Casal and drummer Brad Pemberton, played a secret show in the West Village for a crowd of no more than 50-60 people. Now everybody knows Ryan is a nut but, only in his mid-thirties, he's a nut with a collection of songs bigger and better than most songwriters could amass in a lifetime. The vibe was incredibly loose (Ryan borrowed an audience members CD to remember what tunes were on it) and he even took some requests. Fun!


The National Underground - The first time we did a 3 set show at the NU, I thought to myself, "finally, there's a non New York City club in New York City." It's a small, friendly joint in the Lower East Side, right on Houston with decent beer selection, great music, and the best burger in town. For us, it's a place where we can stretch out from the usual 45-50 minute set we're so accustomed to and feel pretty free to play whatever. And we walk away with some dough! We'll be here a few more times before the end of the year (check the myspace for dates) so stop by and check it out.


Carmine's - Graham Ave L Stop - You people who prefer Tony's are ridiculous.


Fender Blues Junior - attention every small club in NYC: please buy one (or maybe two!) of these.

TV (for those of us who watch anyway..):

LOST!!!! and Top Chef

MP3 :: Nine Days
MP3 :: Soldiers
(from Until The Evening Came. Buy here)

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