My Favorite
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My Favorite

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Alternative Avant-garde

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May
12
My Favorite @ Cameo Gallery

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Apr
13
My Favorite @ The Rockshop

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Jul
23
My Favorite @ Littlefield

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

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Music

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The Secret History Sing Their Life
Cataloging the beautiful losers

By Michael Tedder Wednesday, Jun 6 2012



Michael Grace Jr. and his partner Andrea Vaughn had been making cassette tapes since they were teenagers, but their band My Favorite really started getting serious in 1999. By 2002, they had built enough of a following to headline a CMJ showcase at departed indie haven Brownies. Supporting them on the bill were two bands called Interpol and the Walkmen.

“They probably started six months prior. I went downstairs, and they had a hairdresser, a makeup guy, someone carrying their amps, and no one had ever heard of them,” Grace Jr. says, “and I said: ‘Aw, fuck. This is how you do it.’” Eight months later, Interpol were indie huge, and Grace was just “sitting there, reading Nine Stories or something.”

Once the Walkmen and Interpol broke, managers and record-industry hangers-on came out of the woodwork to convince My Favorite that if they tried hard enough, they just might become the next Stellastarr*. Grace Jr. was into this idea—to a point. “It didn't feel natural at the time, but sure,” he says over pie at the Brooklyn dinner Jimmy’s. “You get to that point where you don't think there's anything left to do but try."

But with the way they blended John Hughes pulse of the Rough Trade catalog with the articulated longing of the Magnetic Fields and Belle & Sebastian, My Favorite had a tendency to be a little “too” for their times. Too post-punk when the indiepop world was on the ’60s-revival tip; too wistful and cardigan-clad when New York post-punk bands were suddenly in fashion—the right sound in the right place at the wrong time.

“Michael created worlds, cohesive and fantastic in ways that made you want to live in his songs. Very few bands can do this, but he really put forth a series of images and ideas through his lyrics that felt related from song to song, almost like a collection of short stories set in the same town. Joan of Arc, ghosts, saints, suburbia, record fetishism, loneliness, and an enduring faith that there was a way out, however unlikely, created this enveloping sense in me that I wanted to be in that world, to live in his dreams,” says the Pains of Being Pure At Heart's Kip Berman, who's on record as calling My Favorite's 2003 album, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, one of his favorite records of the decade. “There is something daring and endearing in the way he wrote songs that took risks and stood apart—they captured an emphatic sense that this music was not made for everyone, but explicitly for people who felt there was nothing more important than three-minute pop songs that perfectly evoked the desperate, emphatic yearning they felt for a life beyond their bedroom, their self-doubt, or their imperfect bodies.”

My Favorite ended in 2005, when Grace Jr. and Vaughn’s relationship ended. “It really short-circuited the band at the height of its potential on some level," he says. "But on another level, it's sort of like James Dean dying while still handsome and dangerous—y'know, it didn't stick around and become something that maybe I wouldn't be happy about.”

He was already well into the next My Favorite album when the split happened. By that point, he had spent more than a decade in a well-liked—if never exactly popular—band, writing about beautiful losers and people who love music harder and longer than what some would say is healthy. When asked if he ever thought that the break would have been a logical opportunity to get a regular job, he chuckles. “Have you been talking to my mother?” he asks. “I always thought I wanted to do another band. My heroes were always novelists and painters and people like that never stop because they weren't 20 anymore, y'know?”

Most of the musicians from My Favorite stuck around after the breakup, and Grace Jr. found a new foil in these pages. "I halfheartedly began perusing The Village Voice classified section for bands looking for a singer,” says Lisa Ronson, daughter of David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. "Michael's ad came with the title ‘Tragic Female Singer,’ and when I saw the list of influences included David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Bob Dylan, the Smiths—all people my dad had worked with—I thought: 'This is it. This has to be the one!'”

The Secret History’s 2010 debut, The World That Never Was (Le Grand Magistery), was a tight collection of Smiths-’n’-Sebastian pop. They’re finishing a resolutely immodest followup titled Americans Singing in the Dark; the characters are based on different people Grace Jr. met in New York, with each song's aesthetic—from aggro-punk to smooth Sade soul—being informed by the music that character would have enjoyed. Grace Jr. says he pictures all of the album's characters playing its songs on a bar jukebox. “I do think that if all of the aesthetically adventurous bands stop caring about telling stories and all the bands that tell stories only sound good on NPR, we're in trouble,” he says. “So I'd like to kind of find some third way.”

Some of the songs are about close friends (he had to talk one into letting him use his nickname in a song by arguing for the importance of art); some are people he played one show with then watched cry into their hands backstage; others are composites. “I was quoting Whit Stillman's Metropolitan when one of the characters gets called out for lying about this person he met, and they say, 'They're just a composite, like in The New Yorker.’ Quoting Whit Stillman movies probably underlines the ceiling of our band's potential success," he notes wryly.

All the characters, though, have one thing in common: struggle.

“I realized how much struggling my friends and people from my generation, even some of the younger people that we had met playing shows. . . . There was always kind of a longing that was being unfulfilled,” he says. “And I really thought that these guys really do tell a certain story about America, and I've always been a guy that had a lot of European influences in terms of the music that I listen to. So I liked the idea of writing about America, even if some of the bands I like are not like that. I wanted to make an album about America because I felt like America was kind of in a crisis, but a lot of indie music wasn't about that.”

The band's members are hashing out as much as possible in their home studios, then recording as much as possible during day-long sessions at New Pornographer producer Josh Clark’s studio, then sifting through the sessions to make sense of it all. Because everyone in the band has jobs, they have limited ability to tour, so they’ve had to fund the making of this album with their own savings and sales of their recent single "Sergio," which Grace calls a “hazy class-warfare anthem." The band used the crowdsourced-funding platform Kickstarter to help out with touring costs last time, but that pin hasn't been pulled yet.

What label releases the record is also up in the air. “The amount of money that labels are going to give you is a lot less than it used to be," Grace notes, "because they can only actually sell, I don't know, 20 percent of the times people are actually getting their music? You know, the idea of artists bartending and waiting tables to write books or make films is nothing new, so we don't mind working and scraping and putting it together.

"Has it slowed down the progress of making the record? Absolutely. But you kind of have to have some inner peace about that.” - Village Voice


This is music that matters to me. The songs have become requirements; Grace's obsessions suddenly seem to have become mine. The alien, the girl or boy "differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility," to quote Webster's. This band reflects an amalgamation, of sounds and styles while all the while retaining an awareness of the awkwardness of youth. Each single track is better than most bands' entire album
-Ink 19

This pristine, heartbreaking panorama of teenage wastelands past and future is no mope-fest: tight instrumentation and clever lyrics give it a near-lethal bite and snap.
-Gear

Their "nostalgia for meaningful things," which includes black anoraks and synthesized strings, creates enough distance from the music's initial inspiration to block the pain and allow them to bask in the unmitigated joy of melodies well-delivered.
-Rolling Stone.com

Stage noir with silent dialogue that tells you high school is death and pop songs are the afterlife. And beyond this, that pop music is a kind of purgatory truth: There's no half-allegiances here--you were born to die a teenager. Be a ghost or be boring.
-Twin City Pages

Poetic themes find their perfect companion in a glorious concoction of arching, melancholy synth lines, arpeggiated '80s guitar melodies, and wistful, cooing vocals. A loving tribute to fallen idols...
-The Big Takeover

Songwriter Michael Grace delivers themes of isolation and alienation matched with upbeat tunes and sweet voices...creating a pleasantly ironic group of songs that suggest dejected suburban dwelling can inspire beauty.
-Boston Weekly

When Belle and Sebastian recently performed in New York, the Scottish popsters specifically requested the presence of one band to open the show. Nope, it wasn't Hall & Oates, but good guess. It was the Long Island ensemble called My Favorite. It's really no surprise that B&S would be drawn to the Long Island band's chirpy pop melodies and dark, quixotic lyrics, and titles that could even make Morrissey smile...
-Boston Globe

With a firm focus on melody and dance mechanics, the group has built themselves quite a following... in a time when monstrous hordes of new wave bands are springing up from the ground like potatoes wearing sunglasses, it's important to be able to recognize what made new wave so important to begin with, and why it's worth drawing upon.
-Splendid e-zine - -----------------


As noted in this week's Voice, Michael Grace Jr. has the tendency to be at the right place at the wrong time. Along the way, he's amassed a formidable (secret) songbook of alienation, fading beauty and chiming guitar. In case you were never fortunate to be at the right place, here are seven of his songs that you need to know, from his humble, New Order-obsessed beginnings to the opening salvo from his forthcoming magnum opus of generational desperation. - Village Voice


Kip Berman, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

My Favorite: The Happiest Days of Our Lives

It's hard for me to choose between their debut, Love at Absolute Zero and The Happiest Days of Our Lives. Luckily, since the first album was released in 1999, only the latter, a collection of EPs that sounds too coherent for that to be true (but is), is eligible.

I sometimes think-- in a self effacing manner-- that there was a better co-ed, idealistic pop band from New York that coupled suburban ennui, adolescent confusion and a hyper-dramatic "now" romanticism to craft the sort of hopelessly emotional pop music that was too fantastic, heartfelt and stubbornly obscurantist to ever achieve recognition beyond the confines of other indiepop fetishists and, of course, Swedish teenagers. Oh, and that half their songs somehow referenced OMD was the icing on the cake that they had, but so many others (ourselves included) got to eat.

Life is hardly ever fair, but in a just world My Favorite would have been everyone's. A few years later, it was commonplace to cite as influences John Hughes movies, Morrissey, and Orange Juice-- and the Killers, Interpol, and M83 made lovely use of similar lyrical themes and sounds on albums that rightly achieved iconic status in their own time. But while it's hard to credit a band for being doubly anachronistic (making literate 80s pop 10 years too late and 5 years before it was fashionable again to do so), My Favorite, with their perpetual underdog status, seems to be the Anvil of our generation-- the band that was too pure to succeed. - Pitchfork Media


Kip Berman, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

My Favorite: The Happiest Days of Our Lives

It's hard for me to choose between their debut, Love at Absolute Zero and The Happiest Days of Our Lives. Luckily, since the first album was released in 1999, only the latter, a collection of EPs that sounds too coherent for that to be true (but is), is eligible.

I sometimes think-- in a self effacing manner-- that there was a better co-ed, idealistic pop band from New York that coupled suburban ennui, adolescent confusion and a hyper-dramatic "now" romanticism to craft the sort of hopelessly emotional pop music that was too fantastic, heartfelt and stubbornly obscurantist to ever achieve recognition beyond the confines of other indiepop fetishists and, of course, Swedish teenagers. Oh, and that half their songs somehow referenced OMD was the icing on the cake that they had, but so many others (ourselves included) got to eat.

Life is hardly ever fair, but in a just world My Favorite would have been everyone's. A few years later, it was commonplace to cite as influences John Hughes movies, Morrissey, and Orange Juice-- and the Killers, Interpol, and M83 made lovely use of similar lyrical themes and sounds on albums that rightly achieved iconic status in their own time. But while it's hard to credit a band for being doubly anachronistic (making literate 80s pop 10 years too late and 5 years before it was fashionable again to do so), My Favorite, with their perpetual underdog status, seems to be the Anvil of our generation-- the band that was too pure to succeed. - Pitchfork Media


Recently, I handed a friend and fellow music enthusiast a copy of the debut EP by Luscious Jackson, In Search of Manny. “It’s not perfect,” I told him, “but it’s pretty great and the band never lived up to the promise of it.” My friend replied, somewhat sarcastically, “I like how you consider the EP to be a promise.” I left it at that, but the exchange got me thinking about the EP and what it can mean.

Between the single and the full-length, the EP stands on a bit of hallowed ground. By size alone, it offers more than the single, and if we’re being honest, chances are it offers more anyway. There are far too many singles that give the world two songs, one good and one mediocre. On the other end of the spectrum, the full-length comes with the baggage of its own self. It’s there to be studied, judged, rallied for and against, and possibly reevaluated. An EP, though, is like the invitation to a potentially great party. The gathering hasn’t happened just yet, but you know it’s coming and you know you’re going.

More than anything else, a good EP generates excitement. It allows the artist to stretch a bit while considering the future. Debut EPs are a solid introduction to a possible new favorite band (Helium, the Strokes ), while this particular format in a mid-career release may attempt to stake a claim to a new direction (Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails , the National). It comes across as a statement of purpose: these songs can’t wait for the full-length; they need to be heard now, and then I/we need to get back to work.

Desolation Town by the Secret History is that sort of an EP. It’s its own entity, beginning to end, while begging the wish fulfillment of the next, longer release. The sound is ‘80s pop with hints of British ‘90s alternative guitar rock. It’s soulful without capitalizing on the current retro fashion. Songwriter and co-singer Michael Grace sounds like a mix of Stuart Murdoch and Neil Tennant. Main vocalist Lisa Ronson sings with a confidence that doesn’t allow despair to hide. The rest of the band—Darren Amadio (guitar, vocals), Kurt Brondo (keyboards), Todd Karasik (drums), Gil Abad (bass), Erin Dermody (harmony)—each add a clear piece to the whole. Their parts are skillfully played, weaving in and out in a way that makes it clear that many bands don’t really know how to do anything except make some noise. One imagines that if Dusty Springfield were alive and young today (and a fan of Bikini Kill and glam rock), she may have released something just like Desolation Town.

At times, the recording sounds disparate, as if the band members weren’t in the studio together. There’s a slightly chilly quality to the proceedings. It’s hard to love at first. But repeated listens open it up and the cool details sink in: a surf/dirge intro to “Our Lady of Pompeii” gives way to bouncy keyboards and gorgeous vocals; the way Lisa Ronson’s style conjures both Kim Wilde and Lush’s Miki Berenyi; the line, “Rock n’ roll means never having to say you’re sorry” on the great “Mark & John (Bring on the Glitter Kids)”.

The Secret History has made an EP that brings with it a promise. It showcases inventiveness, cool songwriting, interesting lyrics, and individual style. It adds another update to the pop genre, and pop certainly always loves another way to stay hip. When its six songs are over, you’ll definitely want more. Not because the EP is lacking in quality. It just isn’t enough.


- popmatters blog


The Secret History – Desolation Town
Angelic Vocals and Comprehensive Cords on Your Way to the Disco

New York natives The Secret History, which may be a literary allusion to the Donna Tartt novel by the same name, have crafted a six song EP with an endless supply of instruments and vox that will leave you excited, dizzy and possibly hungry for more.

Desolation Town is one of those EPs that if it was stretched into a whole album you would probably get bored of it by track number six. Maybe the lingering character flaw of Desolation Town is that it can seem somewhat forgettable at times. However, with that said, all the female vocals are extremely crisp and refreshing like swimming in Lake Michigan around January. Both Lisa Ronson and Erin Dermody superbly make each song shine brilliant and bright on the background of a refined progressive pop sound with volumes of substantial lyrics. The one underlying theme of Desolation Town was its reoccurring religious references; each song alludes to some sort of biblical figure. Perhaps the two female singers are real, actual Angels? Or The Secret History is some sort of metaphor for Creationism…? The most notable song is ‘Mark & John (Bring on the Glitter Kids)’ –mostly due to the variety of musical styles found inside the track - leading off with catchy guitar hooks and then mid-way through tastefully shifting gears into retro-pop for the breakdown. It’s an oddity that makes Secret History stand out and worth listening to. Think of how Pretty Girls Makes Graves would sound if they went to Catholic school and studied classic music and literature – see: The Secret History.

Overall Desolation Town is a solid effort for a younger group of talented and upcoming musicians that will surprise you with its full-bodied pop flavor and richly devote vocal stability.

John Niederkorn
- pentatos.com


The Secret History: Obelisk/Mark and John
The Secret History is the new band from Michael Grace Jr. (formerly of cult indie pop band My Favorite) and the debut vocals of Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. I recently received their new EP "Desolation Town" in the mail, previewed it briefly and then put it on the backburner for a review, which unfortunately got lost in the shuffle of the holidays.

I recently rediscovered them in my iPod rotation and there was one song on the EP that struck a chord: "Obelisk/Mark and John". Equal parts Blondie, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and a little bit of The Organ thrown in, the track is the most notable in terms of sound. Definitely a power pop hit with a bit of retro, dream pop thrown into the middle, I think it showcases what The Secret History does best: perennially sad lyrics (i.e., "This is the end of music") with a religious/mythical bent accompanied by upbeat tempos and music. Of course, I am a firm believer that all bands should follow suit in terms of irony and song delivery, and it's great to see that Grace hasn't lost his knack for creative song-writing and his ability to manipulate and shape various music genres and make them his own.
- stereoscopefm.com


The Secret History
Desolation Town EP
Le Grand Magistery


Formed in 2007 from the ashes of neo-80s cult darlings, My Favorite, the Secret History has abandoned their signature Smiths-esque, dark synth-pop for a lighter, brighter stab at glam-rock on the group’s catchy and musically diverse five-song EP. The band is the brainchild of former My Favorite front man, Michael Grace, Jr. but it’s the vocals of Lisa Ronson, daughter of former Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, that give the tracks their glam-rock genealogy.

Desolation Town is all over the map from start to finish, spanning multiple genres and themes, while the songs are as musically diverse as their subject matter. The album marries sweeping ballads (“Our Lady of Palermo”), disco-driven ditties (“It’s Not the End of the World, Jonah”), and kitschy glam-rock ala New York Dolls (“Obelisk/Mark & John”). Lyrically, Town’s subject matter touches on topics ranging from the sensitive (the Iraq war in the poignantly catchy “Our Lady of Pompeii”) to the imaginary (a homage to the Haunted Hearts, a band that exists solely in Ronson’s mind).

This first EP is certainly scattered, and at times, lacks any sense of direction. But in showcasing the Secret History’s diversity, it also reveals their talent in just five short songs. It’s a wild ride to Desolation Town, but undoubtedly a trip worth taking.
Jennifer Farmer


- agitreader.com


The Secret History
DESOLATION TOWN EP- (LE GRAND MAGISTRY)- Interesting pairing of former My Favorite dude , the serious, stoic Michael Grace (if he does smile I've never seen it) and one Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie's guitarist Mick Ronson, who apparently met through a newspaper ad. Only six cuts here but it's a nice enough slice of pie to prove the pairing of these two was well worth it. The opener "It's Not the End of the World Jonah" hammer and stomps and adds enough tension and melody to keep in interesting throughout while "Our Lady of Pompeii" opens with a guitar hook right off….well, an old Bowie record. On "The Ballad of Haunted Hearts" Ronson gets a chance to stretch her pipes and proves she has quite a set (of pipes, that is). The classic "Mark & John (Bring on the Glitter Kids)" adds some guitar grit and then goes full on anthem on us while once again Ronson proves she can belt it out. I hope this isn't some one-off project (that would be too much of a tease) and let's all pray for a full-length - Daggerzine.com


Discography

  • Love at Absolute Zero CD (1999, Double Agent) 
  • The Happiest Days of Our Lives: The Complete Joan of Arc Tapes 2CD (2003, Double Agent)
  • Love at Absolute Zero/Death In Suburbia (2014 Cloudberry/ La Kalsa)
  • Second Empire/ Dance With A Stranger (2014 WIAIWYA / La Kalsa)




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    Bio

    My Favorite

    MY FAVORITE were true New York indiepop cult heroes, elusive and enigmatic stars of a secret history. They crawled from the suburbs of Long Island to the battered boroughs of New York City, all the while managing to belong nowhere. They created pop songs that feel like films, casting as heroes the misfits, hipsters and monsters of modern life. Beneath shimmering walls of guitars, synthesizers, and melodicas, beat the burning heart of a new wave dream gone wrong. They proposed that our age is worth remembering. They redeemed us by trying. 

    Despite frequent critical perspectives in the 90s linking them to a 'New Wave' sound, they were closer in spirit  to bands like The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, The Go-Betweens, The Magnetic Fields, and Belle & Sebastian -- My Favorite were sparks in a vacuum, originals in an era of simulation. Pop saboteurs making music because they believed their stories were worth telling, and the the ghosts of last century's end will haunt us long into this one. They were the next link in the tarnished chain of misfit music, a desperate pastiche created out of dreams.

    Michael Grace, Jr, songwriter and creative director, spent the late Nineties as the prototypical small town savant. Reading Saint Augustine while kicking around with a suedehead gang on Long Island made him an enigma, even as his songs made him a contender. His first foray into music was My Favorite, formed with childhood schoolmate Darren Amadio, and overcame its DJ-befuddling name to release two critically acclaimed records at the turn of the century. Many of their favorite artists took note, leading to opening slots for Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Fields, and The Bouncing Souls. Morrissey featured one of their tracks on his between act concert mix and the second My Favorite album, 2003's The Happiest Days of Our Lives, was named "Best of the Decade" in Pitchfork by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman Kip Berman.

    Shining moments aside, My Favorite became used to swimming against the tide, pushing literate new wave on a nation still in the lingering throes of grunge. After a decade as perpetual outsiders, the band broke up in 2005, a mere two years before The Killers would ride a similar sound into the mainstream charts.

     In 2014 Michael Grace announced a new version of the group had reconvened to work on a 'death disco LP'

    On May 30 2014 My Favorite reconvened to play the NYC Popfest at  The Knitting Factory

    In Oct 2014 London's WYAIWIA label released the SECOND EMPIRE/DANCE WITH A STRANGER single

    • Love at Absolute Zero CD (1999, Double Agent)
    • The Happiest Days of Our Lives: The Complete Joan of Arc Tapes 2CD (2003, Double Agent)


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    Band Members