Shoegaze has evolved. It now includes a lot more fun! The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have just enough etherea and shimmer as a supplement to their ripe indie pop hooks with a bit of twee pop thrown in for good measure. It’s truly impossible not to dance when you’re listening to their self titled album or seeing them live. Their blissful offering is heartfelt, as their name suggests, and delivered in a way to ensure that you know sincerity is behind all the catchiness.
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Last Thursday night, I trekked out to northeast Washington D.C. to watch David Bazan perform in the living room of a row house for a crowd of 30 kids. It was easily one of the most intimate, powerful performances I’ve witnessed in a long time. Bazan might no longer identify himself as a Christian but it’s hard to avoid religious metaphors when describing his solo shows: he still delivers his songs like sermons, belting them out with his eyes squeezed shut and his head cast back toward the heavens. Though he focused mainly on songs from his latest solo release, the excellent and deeply personal Curse Your Branches, he reached as far back as Pedro the Lion’s 2002 album Control, introducing that record’s penultimate track, “Priests and Paramedics” by lamenting the fact that Americans don’t spend enough time contemplating their own mortality (“It’s a very healthy endeavor”). And in classic Bazan style, he found plenty of time for between song banter, discussing politics, the ethics of music downloading and Radiohead’s In Rainbows with the crowd throughout the evening (he even managed to turn in a surprisingly solid cover of “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box”). Unfortunately, Bazan’s house show tour has now concluded, though he’ll be embarking on a full-band tour starting next month. For those who missed the house shows, we’ve embedded a recorded webcast of Bazan’s Brooklyn solo performance below (courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan).
Robert Glasper’s album release party was a study in the dynamics of contemporary jazz. Flexing the genre’s malleability as well as his own, Glasper showed off his abilities as both trio leader and experimental hip-hop group collaborator. As he often does on his new album Double Booked, Glasper would either seize each ensemble’s melodic reins or demurely diffuse his harmonies into the underlying cadences, as led by drummer Chris Dave and bassists Vicente Archer (acoustic) or Derrick Hodge (electric) depending on the outfit. In fact, Glasper receded too regularly into the background while playing in the trio but it’s a tendency whose success depends on taste. For fans favoring the Experiment, it allowed Dave to take commanding solos that inverted the possibilities of his small kit. For fans favoring Glasper’s prominence, there were never enough moments of aleatory but refined solos. Everyone, however, appreciated Glasper’s disarming approach to both sets (one with each setup.) Not unlike le Poisson Rouge’s own dressing down of classical music and jazz, it was a reassuring approach to an ostensibly imperious art.
How long does it take to set up a bunch of drums, some keyboards and two amps? Apparently, at least an hour. The wait between opener, the Phenomenal Handclap Band, and headliner, Friendly Fires, was spectacularly long (longer than either’s actual set) but fans were rewarded with two stellar, albeit stylistically different, sets.
Fans of Scotland’s five-piece Trashcan Sinatras were thrilled last Sunday night to have the opportunity to see them playing songs again from their previous five studio albums as well as new material. Devotees were also excited to be able to purchase their newest, soon to be officially released album, In the Music, which the band is planning on touring on more extensively in the fall. Despite that The Trashcan Sinatras have technically been around for nearly 25 years, its members don’t seem worn down. They haven’t lost their ability to be truly engaging live, finding a balance between subtlety and devoted cries.