Cake Shop, New York City
No frills here. Slang Chickens bathed the cavernish Cake Shop in sleepy southern harmonies lifted by a charmingly confident frontman Friday night. The four-piece was stripped to the bone-–with three-part harmonies drifting across country guitar lines—but the group injected occasional shots of caffeine that kept it from dragging. Nothing awe-inspiring, but by the same token a solid set from a group worth checking out.
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Bowery Ballroom, New York City
Imaad Wasif is chock full of two things: Hair and love. In case you weren’t certain of the latter half of that combo, Wasif took the time to remind the crowd at Bowery Ballroom… after every song: “I love the city. I love being insane. I love being insanely in love.” Though Wasif was somewhat awkward while trying to make conversation with the crowd between songs, he was at home while performing his brand of classic rock. All of his songs, all of which he was quick to point out were “love songs,” were well-crafted and well-performed. Wasif was the star of the show, but would have been helped if he had a more animated supporting cast—his bassist and drummer seemed disinterested no matter how much Wasif thrashed about the stage. I’m not certain I really felt the love like Wasif, but perhaps if I find the man he awkwardly hugged at the end of his set, he could shed some light.
The Temper Trap
Ace Hotel, New York City
Superb guitar parts. So much so that at first I had trouble understanding singer Dougy Mandagi’s vocals—and I’m not talking about a bad audio mix nor a heavy accent, just why he was bothering at all. “They’d be better off as instrumental post-rock band,” I thought (then promptly scolded myself for using such a silly term.) Prescient, then, that their only request to the sound guy was “more vocals” (in the monitors)—it all started to make sense after a few songs when other band members started joining in with twisty-turny background vocals, each secondary line every bit as interesting as the lead if you listened closely enough. Godspeed, you Aussie hotshots.
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The Studio at Webster Hall, New York City
Body Language, a Brooklyn four-piece, played colorful synth pop shaped by Tropicalia climaxes and a compelling lead singer, Angelica Bess. Saccharine synthesizer lines harmonized three ways, along with bells, forged dreamy melodies under a dance beat. Though their sound was saturated in electronica, practically all of it was played live on multiple keyboards creating a refreshing live dynamic and a lush full sound many electronic-focused bands couldn’t touch. Their last song, “Holiday,” showed off more of their melancholy vocals over another strong but ethereal beat.
The Bell House, Brooklyn
The White Stripes and Black Keys trend of a guitar plus drums duo extends to Common Loon. Using The Cure and Nirvana as sonic examples, the two members of Common Loon write simple “alt rock” tunes. No wailing guitar solos, no foot-stomping drums, no standout vocals, just distorted chords, muffled vocals and straight-ahead drum beats. Not that these guys aren’t talented or pleasurable to listen to, but they don’t bring anything particularly new or exciting to the table—and watching them bring it is kind of boring.
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