Landlady — Upright Behavior
Δ “The band has an intimate urgency that uncrosses arms and impels involvement, and their sound invokes the Band if they had Dirty Projectors’ skewed sense of song structure.” — Pitchfork
Δ Landlady is the Brooklyn–born brainchild of Adam Schatz, a vision completed by Mikey Freedom Hart, Ian Chang, Ian Davis, and Booker Stardrum.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Album release: July 15, 2014
Record Label: Hometapes, Museum People
01. Above My Ground 5:20
02. Dying Day 2:34
03. Girl 3:31
04. Under The Yard 2:36
05. The Globe 5:54
06. Upright Behavior 3:50
07. Maria 2:32
08. Fine 2:32
09. Washington State Is Important 5:55
10. X–Ray Machine 4:31
≡ Jake Aron Mixing
≡ Jacob Bergson Engineer
≡ Angelica Bess Vocals
≡ Ian Chang Drums, Percussion, Vocals
≡ Ian McLellan Davis Bass, String Arrangements, Vocals
≡ Rebekah Durham Violin
≡ D. James Goodwin Engineer
≡ Mikey Freedom Hart Drum Machine, Guitar, Mellotron, Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
≡ Max Jaffe Percussion
≡ Jeremy Gustin Percussion
≡ Alexandra Jones Cello
≡ Adam Kramer Viola
≡ Jeff Lipton Mastering
≡ Okukuseku International Band of Ghana Composer
≡ Maria Rice Mastering Assistant
≡ Adam Schatz Casio, Composer, Dictaphone, Farfisa Organ, Microcassette, Piano, Producer, Sampling, Univox, Vocals, Wurlitzer
≡ Booker Stardrum Drums, Percussion
≡ Tom Tierney Guitar
≡ Renata Zeiguer Casio, Violin, Vocals
By Grant Golden | July 29, 2014 | 4:35pm | SCORE: 8.5
≡ Adam Schatz, the chief songwriter of Landlady, is arguably one of the most versatile and exciting musicians in recent years. The New York–based multi–instrumentalist has his hands in a lot of musical pots, his primary project being Landlady, but he’s also a member of Man Man, Father Figures (an improvisational sax–rock band), Zongo Junction (an 11–piece afrobeat band), The Shoe–Ins (a nine–piece psych–soul outfit) and even plays saxophone in Those Darlins. Needless to say Mr. Schatz’ music covers quite the scope, ranging from bright and articulate psych–pop to intricately arranged orchestral art–rock. Landlady laid some impressive foundation with their 2011 debut Keeping To Yourself, but Upright Behavior not only expands upon their unique sound but inflates it with pomp, glory and soul–rattling lyricism.
≡ Upright Behavior is an album that’s comfortable with itself, not afraid to dig deep into the core and make the listeners come to grips with themselves. Schatz immediately begins the album with an earnest yearning: “I wish that you were still around me now, I didn’t know I needed you.” The refrain repeats in various fashions while a swirling arrangement of reverb–soaked guitars, pounding percussion and shiver–inducing harmonies all break apart and come together like aural waves in an engulfing sonic sea. Landlady’s song structures aren’t unlike that of The Beach Boys, slowly building from smooth riding melodies and gradually erupting into a beautiful, maddening mixture of sounds. Tracks on Upright Behavior range from infectious pop–rock anthem like “Dying Day,” a track that cheerfully makes you question how one can ever deal with their looming mortality, to the Latin–swing of “Maria” while stopping in between for the spastic syncopations and concise melodic tendencies of “Under The Yard.”
≡ One of the most exciting parts of Upright Behavior is that it keeps you guessing. Songs are liable to change time signatures or keys at the drop of a dime, while the lyrical acrobatics of Schatz makes every track a whimsical experience. There’s not only a powerful focus on every track being sonically rich and diverse, but Schatz’ lyricism is as vibrant and captivating as the grandiose arrangements. Whether he’s tackling universal entropy or long–lost love, he does so with equal amounts of conviction and urgency.
≡ With jaunting guitar parts, lilting, dreamlike piano arrangements and a tight, grooving rhythm section, Landlady can make you dance and shake as much as you stand and daydream, lost in their entrancing arrangements. There’s a brilliant display of pacing throughout the album, lush tracks are peppered throughout distortion–driven rock songs. Meanwhile, slow tunes like “Maria” are liable to immediately bleed into an impressive percussive breakdown that feels far too natural.
≡ On “Fine,” Schatz begs to “believe in something big, bigger than my appetite,” and it’s the perfect display of this album’s thematic tendencies. Schatz tackles massive, overarching issues like belief and hope, a desire to belong, while making self–referential, grounding references to bring things back to Earth. A lot of Upright Behavior feels like an artist coping with his own existence, exploring the ups and downs, the highs and lows and working through the frustrations. It’s ultimately an album that can strike a listener in a myriad of ways, which is what makes it so special. ≡ You can zone out and enjoy the breathtaking aesthetics of the rich arrangements or you can dig deep into your own mind by following Schatz through his lyrical rabbit–hole. Whether you’d rather stimulate your brain or your heart, it’s all available on Upright Behavior, it’s an impressive effort from an act that feels like it’s just finding its footing. As Adam Schatz and company continue to carve out their own musical niche it will be immensely enjoyable to see what musical corners of the world they pull from to craft a unique and insanely gratifying listening experience.
BY LIOR PHILLIPSON, JULY 10, 2014, 6:01 AM; SCORE: B-
≡ Upright Behavior, the second album from Landlady, is the sound of a band sprouting in multiple directions. Thanks to Adam Schatz’s unique vocal style, it’s easily identifiable as “classic Landlady,” because the further they reach with their music, the more it reinforces its foundation. It’s quite something really, as this sort of behavior isn’t common; yet, here’s a band with the goal of sounding like nothing else around, and using unusual anecdotes to do so. I suppose some people march to the beat of their own drummer, and in the case of Landlady, it seems we’re in the throes of one who sounds as if they have nine arms, like a Hindu deity.
≡ Nothing cuts through these 10 songs like the piercing and vigorous rhythm sections.
≡ Melody comes first, and within seconds the songs are reshaped by the shimmering guitar lines, heated with West African influence and inspired by the likes of Talking Heads, TV on the Radio, and Dirty Projectors. With each passing minute, the effort put into the composition, structure, and meticulous experimentation becomes more obvious. Although you might imagine that Schatz, the NYC ensemble’s founder, is determined to stretch himself with every track, first consider his list of past and present collaborators: Twin Shadow, Man Man, Vampire Weekend, and Sleigh Bells. So, it’s no wonder each band has rubbed off in some capacity, and then rubbed against this complex indie rock.
≡ The ornate batch of songs build on Schatz’s direct lyrics, which means that the jump from their 2011 album, Keeping to Yourself, to now is a gigantic pole–vault. They tap into emotional accessibility, they explore vexation, vulnerability, cynicism, and gloom, and in 2014, that’s relevant. For instance, the heart–stopping moment of quiet restoration in “Above My Ground” finds the seam between early 2006 Tunde Adebimpe’s “Playhouses” and “Dirtywhirl”; it’s a slow burn of acoustic plucks pulsating with washes of crisp guitar. The minute–long build–up dances through a menagerie of taps, tempos, and textures, only to arrive at Schatz’s honest plea: “I wish that you were still around.” His intonation is beautiful, comforting even in the face of gloomy subject matter, and rises far above any ground they’ve ever hovered over. The repetitive string section rails along and crackles back into the wallpaper. It plays so loosely with its own rhythm that the effect is like a kite whipping in the wind, constantly threatening to unspool itself from its owner.
≡ Over some twitching drums and a jaggedly enveloping riff on “Dying Day”, Schatz offers one of his most immediate and playful hooks yet. He teasingly announces, “I think I’m getting better every day,” then immediately refutes himself: “I think I’m getting closer to my dying day.” That gusto and charm has become the most beloved element of Landlady — a brutal attempt at existential questions offered without reprieve or reason. Their creativity feels erudite, which one can chalk up to symbiosis between band members, their unique shared vision, or even Schatz’s past collaborators, but there are changes so profound between verses that the experimentation feels compulsory. From the snare–tap intervals on “Under the Yard” before launching into the full weight of “Girl”, his voice penetrates as he begs, “We just want someone to turn on.”
≡ “The Globe”, akin to its name, orbits the full–bodied paradigms of Landlady. This is the spot on the album where you want to be in the same room with this band. It’s a six–minute event set right at the heart and manages to balance enough intensity with the precise amount of minimal gap to not ever feel like it’s overly ambitious. The first half of this album is powered by this approach, trying to experience complete inhibition while surpassing experimentation. There’s just the right amount of unrestrained reverberations to match the simple instrumental patterns, found mostly in the album’s title track. They’ve chosen to keep an arrangement here that could be mistaken for an orchestra warming up before an opera.
≡ In a lot of ways, this particular musical complexity implores an involuntary confrontation with the listener, and even though the constantly skewed song structures reinforce interest, it runs the risk of exhausting a new ear. At times, this system feels almost crutch–like, similar to the earlier albums of Dirty Projectors, and you might find yourself arriving to the second half of the album completely full. Even if Landlady are developing from exploring multiple nooks and delving into compound crannies, they might do better finding a base that they can hone in on. Even so, they gain ground on effortless talent alone.
Essential Tracks: “Above My Ground”, “The Globe”, and “Dying Day”
By Jayson Greene; July 23, 2014; Score: 7.4
By Annie Zaleski, Contributor, on 07.18.14; Score: ***½
Review by Timothy Monger, Score: ***½
Press: Sean Hallarman @ Big Hassle
Agent: Shannin Porter, email@example.com
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 second 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.