Big Thief

Best of NYC 2015: Open Submission Results for ALT FOLK: Mappa Mundi, Big Thief, Echospace

It's time to tackle the last category of our open submissions for the 2015 edition of our Best of NYC Poll for emerging artists: ALT ROOTS! You can see the results we published so far here.


Total submissions in this category: 13

Jurors: Michelle Bacon (The Deli KC), Jordannah Elizabeth (The Deli San Francisco), Zach Weg (The Deli NYC).

Artists qualified to the next stage (i.e. the Readers' Poll, starting around 01.20):

1. Mappa Mundi- 7.8 (out of 10)

 Almost a year ago exactly, New York chamber pop six-piece released ‘At Sea,’ which is more of a sonic novella than a traditional EP. On such wistful, guitar-strummed songs and horn-sloped tracks such as “So Obscure” and “Mirabelle” (streaming below), the Adam B Levine-led band imbued poignant scenes of love and loss with a literary purity that was not only impressive in its vividness but preciously moving in its effect. Mappa Mundi plays Pete’s Candy Store on 2/5.


2. Big Thief- 7.7 (out of 10)

Almost sounding like an indie folk version of Allen Ginsberg’s eternal poem ‘Howl,’ “Masterpiece” (music video playing below) by Brooklyn’s Big Thief is a guitar-fuzzed portrait of people searching for serenity. Especially memorable with the soothing vocals of Adrianne Lenker, the poignant song marks Big Thief—which released the quietly strong ‘side-as’ two years ago—as a group not just that conveys, but almost, celebrates pain. Big Thief, currently on tour with Here We Go Magic, plays The Bowery Ballroom on 2/18.


3. Echoscape- 7.7 (out of 10)

On the May-released ‘Square Two’ EP, Brooklyn “math folk” project Echospace (aka Satoshi Inoue) doesn’t so much play the guitar as conure it into being. On such sweetly fleeting songs as “Rainsong” or “Undulating Place,” one marvels at the deeply deft musician’s ability to convey the deepest of emotions with a single strum. Echospace plays The Shop Brooklyn on 1.29.

Honorable MentionsBrooms, Ransom Pier, Brother Valiant, Out of System Transfer, Juliet K Seldomo

- Zach Weg



Four great locals play Mercury Lounge on 12.10: Big Thief, Nick Hakim, Sam Evian and Pavo Pavo

Lower East Side's Mercury Lounge is an important venue for emerging NYC bands, because it represents a trampoline towards other more prestigious Bowery Presents live show "opportunities." Sell it out, and it may unlock Rough Trade's stage a couple of months later (ask Lewis Del Mar about it, he ALSO sold out the W'burg venue this past Tuesday, by the way). On the flip side, if your band's draw is poor or unsatisfying, you may have a hard time getting booked there again. So... those are the rules of the game, and four super talented emerging NYC artists will face those odds on December 10, in a 100% local bill, something of a rarity at Mercury. We covered in this blog several times alt folksters Big Thief, soulful songwriter Nick Hakim, and orchestral pop quintet Pavo Pavo. We never covered Sam Evian (pictured), the new solo project of Sam Owen of Celesital Shore, but that very band graced the cover of our mag a couple of issues ago. The material we have access to for his solo project (limited to the song "Cherry Tree," streaming below) explores a ballad sound that, flirting with pop, blues and psychedelia at once, is reminiscent of that intense masterpiece that is The Beatles' "Abbey Road." Don't miss this show, great opportunity to catch four great emerging locals in one night.

We added this song to The Deli's playlist of Best mellow songs by emerging NYC artists - check it out!


A Deli NYC premiere: Big Thief unveils video for "Masterpiece" + tours with Here We Go Magic

Ah, the joys and horrors of DIY touring! Those uninitiated to the rock'n'roll lifestyle may wonder what pushes four young individuals to share 24/7 a gas guzzling old van for several weeks, while traveling for over a month from coast to coast. This video by Brooklyn electric folksters Big Thief, for their new single "Masterpiece," provides the answers: our brains - like a video-camera - are set to record the good and fun moments, while forgetting the smells, the struggles, the bad meals and sleepless nights (invariably caused by snoring band mates). Most importantly, touring is a unifying, semi-epic adventure that has often the power to reinforce the bond between the traveling musicians, creating shared memories that strenghten the group's identity and commitment. And that's a great asset for any band.

The video, shot recently while on the road, anticipates Big Thief's upcoming 25 date tour opening for Brooklyn pop experimenters Here We Go Magic. With its beautiful, powerful melody and full on band sound, "Masterpiece" (streaming link here) represents a visceral turn in Adrianne Lenker’s writing toward a heavier, electric sound that contrasts with her two earlier releases, both intimately folk and minimally arranged. Don't miss their show at Bowery Ballroom on Ocrtober 24!


Six talented NYC female musicians play Deli sponsored event The Hum on 10.05

Intimate shows in living room (or other comfortable small spaces not strictly set up to host live music) are gaining steam these days - and not only in NYC. In Brooklyn, Hypnocraft has booked several shows for series held at the cozy (as in charmingly small) Manhattan Inn restaurant in Greenpoint. Gone are the old-school pianists entertaining diners with watered down cover songs, replaced by respected local artists like Sam Cohen and Shilpa Ray playing songs from their original repertoire. Crowds are often so reverent you can hear a pin drop. Hypno’s second series is called “The Hum.” Its mission, says founder Rachael Pazdan, “is to connect a diverse community of women making music in New York City.” Those words couldn't fall on deaf ears here at The Deli, therefore, we decided to sponsor these events!

On The Hum's first night this upcoming Monday (10.05) half a dozen of talented local ladies will grace the stage of the Manhattan Inn - we are particularly excited because the majority of them has received generous coverage in this very blog. Being a collaborative night, the performances are organized in couples: accomplished singer-songwriter Larkin Grimm (previously a member of Dirty Projectors) will perform together with drummer Lia Simone (ex drummer for The Butcherettes and Gothic Tropic). Mercurial singer and composer Alena Spanger of Tiny Hazard (a band we celebrated in 2013 with a "Deli NYC Video of the Month") will surely try something quirky during her shared performance with dreamy folksinger Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief. After them, we should expect some electronic instruments on stage, when Nandi Rose Plunkett of Half Waif and Johanna Cranitch of White Prism will join forces (and their beautiful voices) to entertain us. 

Hear each artist's own music in the playlist below, and don't miss their creative interaction on Monday October 05 at the Manhattan Inn - we'll be there!


Big Thief writes some of NYC's best intimate folk

Big Thief is Adrianne Lenker's collaborative songwriting project. Several songs have been posted since her last official release, "a-sides" in 2014. Her music is often sentimental and rarely steps outside conventional folk arrangements, so what is that in there—bold and arresting? She stands apart from many musicians carrying on the folk/bluegrass tradition in that she never gets lazy—all her tracks are different, her songwriting is on point, and her voice can stand perfectly alone as well as melt into anything it touches. She delivers clarity. The vocal harmonies in “a-sides” thaw over spare strumming and tell stories of death by Lake Superior, travels by the Mississippi River, and countless other places impossible not to fall in love with. Her earlier records “b-sides” and “Ours Were The Birds” can’t go without mention as they offer a great catch of Lenker’s even more powerful solitude. Big Thief played a bunch of shows in March and we’re looking forward to hearing more. - Leora Mandel

We added this song to The Deli's playlist of Best folk songs by emerging NYC artists - check it out!