In contrast with some of their arty antics off-stage, L.A. band Fol Chen began their set at Amoeba Hollywood merely declaring, “Hi, we’re Fol Chen,” before launching into the digital sitars and Janet Jackson-style coos of “A Tourist Town,” from the recently released The False Alarms.
With a four-person set-up, their detailed pop songs came through remarkably clearly and intact. Frontwoman Sinosa Loa wore a purple dress and white gloves like Madonna, though her more demure stage presence is more befitting of the band’s digitized, skewed brand of pop.
It was hard to hear Loa on “The Fifth Season,” one of the pitfalls of their complex sound being that they occasionally don’t clear enough space for the singer, who looked a little lost. It got better halfway through when digital manipulation of Loa’s voice seemed to give her more confidence and the band’s creepy digital space becomes quite effective. The band fared better altogether on single “I.O.U.,” an irresistible pop tune with a bubblegum chorus — albeit an intelligent one. Loa made those gloves work for her as she clutched the mic close and gesticulated with one hand.
Their keyboardist came out front to play trumpet to nice effect on “Winter, That’s All,” from their album Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made. It helped humanize and demystify some of the band's methods, nicely displaying their guitarist’s noise-making capabilities on an effected acoustic guitar as Loa eerily sang “Lately I don’t feel so hot/Could it be the winter, that’s all.” While the newer songs are better-written, they seemed to be still getting the hang of them, while on older songs, like “The Holograms” and “In Ruins,” from their last album, Part II: The New December, they seemed more confident and louder.
They came together strongly for The False Alarms’ “You Took the Train,” on which Loa clicked drumsticks together and sang in a heavily altered voice over a heavy dance beat, as well as the new album’s title track, where Loa sounded ethereal over a big beat. Fol Chen still seem like an insular, shy band sometimes singing to themselves, but endearingly, you could see they were happy to be onstage, longing to share their pop hearts with the audience.