Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance played to a rapt audience Aug. 22. He showed how his voice could stretch and fill space on “You and I,” a song that features Bonnie Raitt on his recently released album, Joy of Nothing. He created ghostly guitar noise using a bow and copious reverb on the outset of that album’s title track to breathtaking effect, while his high-end, slightly raspy voice sent shivers during the chorus. He paused every so often to chat with the audience, asking questions like, “Is the plural of synopsis ‘synopsises’?” [My inner grammar geek was screaming “SYNOPSES!!!”] He sat and played piano for his Elton John moment on single “Closed Hands, Full of Friends,” saying the song was the catalyst for writing the album. Before performing album closer “Guiding Light,” he made it seem as though Ed Sheeran was about to come out and perform with him as he does on the album, sending the girls in the audience into a tizzy before revealing it was a joke. Even without Sheeran, “Guided Light” started a sing-and-clap-along that got virtually everyone there involved — a little girl in front of me adorably clapped and dance to her own beat. It was a sweet moment that showed what makes Vance so special to his dedicated following, who seemed to hang on his every word. See and download photos from the show here.
AlunaGeorge – Body Music
AlunaGeorge’s combination of The xx’s nighttime vibes with the coolness and precise beatwork of Aaliyah’s collaborations with Missy Elliott and Timbaland might seem like a mess on paper, but Body Music plays out more enjoyably than a thousand breathless, hypey articles could’ve predicted. Early singles “You Know You Like It” and “Your Drums, Your Love” appear here and are as silky smooth as ever, but the rest of Body Music impresses as well — I’m partial to the skittering R&B bounce of “Lost & Found.” Aluna Francis’ vocals are unassuming enough to pull of lines like “your body is like music, baby,” and George Reid’s production is plugged into modern trends — some vocal manipulation here and there, washed out ’80s synths aplenty — but he skillfully calls to mind late ’80s/early ’90s new jack swing in cadence and feel, without ever really appropriating those sounds, something easier said than done. And what’s more, Body Music comes off as pretty effortless and sexy, not cold and calculated. It’s is a rousing success, innovative and intriguing while remaining thoroughly pleasurable.
I’m back after a lil’ break! Here are some of my favorite local SF/LA area songs and videos of the past couple of weeks:
together PANGEA – “Snakedog” video
We’ve been waiting for some time for the next full-length from this band (who are now calling themselves “together PANGEA” rather than just Pangea, I guess to avoid confusion with other similarly named acts?). Still waiting on when that album will come out, but for now we’ve got the first new taste from the L.A. band, the slithery rocker “Snakedog.” Sounds like one of those dumb SyFy Channel movies! But it’s even better than that! I love these guys, can’t wait to hear more. The Snakedog 7” is out now on Harvest Records, and they’re on tour this fall, hitting Bardot in Hollywood Sept. 9.
Soft Metals – “Lenses” video
I know I write about these guys a lot, but they seriously have the corner marked on slightly detached yet totally engaging synth pop. “Lenses” is a dreamy title track from their excellent recent release, and since their last video was such a sexy treat, I thought I’d post this one too. Watching it and listening to it sort of feels like being completely wasted and high at some weird after hours place where you start seeing things and you’re not sure what’s going on.
Julia Holter - Loud City Song
Reading about the construction of a Julia Holter album is a bit like reading an art student's honors thesis — one album was built around a Greek tragedy; this one's loosely built around the musical Gigi. Listening, however, is another matter, and Loud City Song might be Holter's most transcendent statement yet. Her voice can come off as icy and ethereal, but on "World," it's firmly grounded and comes through with stunning clarity as she sings of urban melancholia — "what are you wearing? ... I live on the 5th floor of the apartment building ... what am I looking for in you? How can I escape you?" It feels like listening to snippets of phone conversations and thoughts from miles of anonymous citydwellers, while lush horns and harpsichord craft blankets of sound around her. "Horns Surrounding Me" begins with what sounds like someone being chased while she whispers paranoia before launching into a cold, pulsating orchestral pop number. Each of Loud City Song's pieces feels purposeful; you could write at length about each one, like how "He's Running Through My Eyes'" soft movements curl in unexpected ways, or how "In the Green Wild" counters its seemingly carefree, scat-like delivery and standup bass with dread-inducing strings and dark, descending backup vocals. Holter creates her own galaxy on Loud City Song, with each of its songs a strange, spinning planet of sound.