The lights and fog on stage created the illusion of a misty sky behind a circular enclosure. Thin, sheer black curtains hanging between the lights created the illusion of a temple.
But the priestess of that temple was no illusion. Indeed, the sold-out crowd gathered at the 9:30 Club Monday night to drink from the altar of their chosen indie singer-songwriter heroine Lykke Li. Clad in flowing black garb, the beguiling Swede struck a moody, artistic note as she paraded and swayed through a solid 75 minutes of sadly atmospheric songs.
Li opened the show with the title track of I Never Learn, her third and latest album released earlier this year. The song, like many of her others, deals with unfulfilling or lost love — and the implication is that “never learning” equates to “never getting over someone.”
Somewhere in synthpop heaven, a match was made. Norwegian duo Royksopp would party with Swedish indie diva Robyn, and beautiful music would be made.
It happened most spectacularly on Royksopp’s 2009 album, Junior, with the disco smash “The Girl and the Robot,” which between Royksopp’s hooky synths and Robyn’s pleading voice captured a perfect crystalized moment in dancefloor history. Nominally, the song is about a woman in love with someone who may not return her affections, or at least is not as warm as she would like. The video fetishes technology and strobe lights.
And introducing the song gave Robyn a perfect opportunity to declare her raison d’etre before its performance by a happily reunited Robyn and Royksopp Thursday night at Wolf Trap.
Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Kooks shimmied into the 9:30 Club Sunday night with new material and a revitalized stage show that was eaten up by the sold-out crowd.
From the beginning, vocalist Luke Pritchard strutted and slid across the stage, very much looking like he could have sprung whole from the ‘60s music that inspired his lyrical Britpop.
Pritchard, guitarist Hugh Harris, drummer Alexis Nunez, and bassist Peter Denton have been opening their set with lead single “Down,” from a new album Listen, set to be released in the United States on Sept. 2. It’s a catchy pop song of jittery sophistication, and its words are a challenge to a woman seeking to bring our man “down down diggy de down down diggy diggy.”
Just because you’ve got a sad song doesn’t mean you can’t get diggy with it.
Ally Young and Lee Newell are Lovelife. (Photo by author)
Londoners Lovelife played at Living Social headquarters Saturday, bringing a sharp set of tunes in a break from their tour with Capital Cities.
The Speakeasy stage at Living Social turned out to be a good place to see the band, who opened with six songs for Philadelphia-based Vacationer. Not having previously seen a concert at Living Social, I was charmed a bit by the very dark, urban bar space, where you could get a drink on the lower level and look up at the band on a gallery above. Standing on the mezzanine, you could watch the band play standing right next to you and occasionally look down at the bar patrons looking up at you. Lee Newell, Lovelife’s lead singer, did just that with some amusement while singing down to the crowd below during one number.
Lovelife at Bowery Electric, 2012 (courtesy of Lovelife)
Living Social is kicking off an irregular showcase of emerging artists at its F Street headquarters starting Saturday May 4. Normally, I wouldn’t give it a second look but they managed to get something special for their inaugural date with Lovelife, Ghost Beach and Vacationer — a lineup better suited to the Black Cat or at least the Rock and Roll Hotel.
It’s worth mentioning what Living Social say about Lovelife because it’s not quite right. “After a name change and a transatlantic hop from London to Brooklyn, this synthpop act recently dropped new tracks El Regreso and The Fourth Floor.”
Well, our Atlantic-hopping musicians are well worth checking out. And lead singer Lee Newell was fronting a band called Viva Brother in London. But that band didn’t simply change its name and move. Newell met Ally Young, who at the time was in another band called Mirrors. The two really clicked musically, and Young, a bona fide synth genius, left Mirrors to form Lovelife with Newell.
That was really quite too bad, in my personal opinion, as Mirrors were a great synthpop band in the tradition of The Human League or Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. But Young wanted to do something different, and it perhaps more organic and diverse. Lovelife still have a strong synth strain augmented by the capable guitar and drums of Sam Jackson and drummer Frank Colucci, respectively. But the new band has a taste for soul and R&B that permeate its music. While I wouldn’t call it neosoul by any stretch, it’s at the very least soulful synthpop. And well worth a listen — trust me!
Check out “Your New Beloved” from the latest Lovelife EP:
Vacationer, originally from Philadelphia, also are well worth checking out. They last came through DC and played at the Rock and Roll Hotel in January. Before that, I caught them opening for Walk the Moon in June last year. They play sunny, soulful indie pop that wistfully transports you to distant shores, much as their name Vacationer suggests.
The bands are accompanied by Ghost Beach, who will be performing a DJ set.
Lovelife are predicting this show will sell out, so grab a ticket now and don’t miss out on a good show!
w/ Lovelife and Ghost Beach
Saturday, May 4
Doors 7pm; show 8pm $12
918 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
I was sad to learn recently that DC9 will end its weekly Liberation Dance Party, the premiere indie pop dancehall experience in DC, on Friday, Jan. 18.
Not only has Liberation kept up with the best mix of britpop, glam, new wave, post-punk, dreampop, shoegaze, house, nu disco, hip hop, grime, sheer guilty pleasures, and more since its inception in 2004, it has done so as a video party. For me, the resulting effect has been very similar to a modern equivalent of taking mid-1980s MTV, cutting any of the soft rock crap, and making a party out of it in your favorite third space.
I’m not instantly comfortably anywhere, but I was always at home at Liberation Dance Party, cloaked in the sounds of Franz Ferdinand, the Kaiser Chiefs, Hot Chip, The Sounds, The Killers, and some occasional New Order. I was introduced to new favorites like Dragonette and Goldfrapp. I learned to love Kylie almost as much as Bill Spieler, the host with the most. (Thank you, Bill, for bringing the party for so many years.) VJ Matt Dunn dependably brought David Bowie with him every time and VJ Shannon Stewart played Lady Gaga until Bill got sick of her and banned her from the club (Gaga, that is, not Shannon!).
I’m a pretty cynical guy, to say the least. It would be really easy for me to write off The Submarines for writing corny love songs. But I can’t.
I’ve seen plenty of bands that are too cool to acknowledge the audience; I’ve seen rock stars that act like gods. So it’s refreshing to see a band as humble and genuine as The Submarines. You could tell how excited the band was to play for us that night. They were pumped that they sold out the venue – the tiny, intimate Backstage at the Black Cat. I felt like we were the biggest audience they’d ever played for!
I mean, I’m sure we weren’t, considering their profile. The Submarines rocketed to fame by getting their songs into iPhone commercials, and TV shows such as Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and Weeds. Their synth-infused indie pop provides a background of optimism, although the cheery vocals mask the heartache hidden in the lyrics. It’s hard to ignore their similarities to The Postal Service – bright, well-crafted pop songs with male/female vocals. Continue reading →