SHANA FALANA AND THE WELZEINS, WILL'S PUB, NOV. 8
The latest national name imported by OYG Presents was New York's Shana Falana, a Team Love Records band that operates on the brawnier side of the dream-pop realm. While many of their contemporaries float among the clouds like seraphim, they ride through them like a jet on a sound that moves with thrust and ballast. Even though they swim in thick shoegaze and psych currents, they do it with punctuation. And they achieve the heavens with melodic grandeur rather than just ambience and ether.
Moreover, they're a small band that really know how to maximize their live presence. For just a twosome, they manage tons of atmosphere through pedals, loops and smart craft that allows a Jack-and-Meg setup to conjure the size and stratosphere of Crocodiles. That same all-out flair that allows them to punch above their weight sonically also spills over into their visual aspect. With low-tech projections and a sophisticated filmic sense, they were backdropped with great movement, pattern and color. It's simple but inspired presentation that elevates a concert into an experience.
Also this night was a fresh look at Orlando's the Welzeins. Although I've covered what's long been known as one of the city's mightiest duos plenty, this was my first encounter with them as a recently expanded trio. Saying goodbye to that raw two-piece sinew is hard, but this beefed-up array allows them newfound cogency in their apparent pivot toward the heavy. Now, the chopping riffs of their new stoner doom grooves drop with more tonnage and kill. The freewheeling heroics of guitarist-singer RJ Nordstrom are thankfully still intact, they just ride on the chassis of a full rhythm section now, making their rock bona fides all the more manifest and unequivocal.
THE HOTELIER AND ALEX NAPPING, BACKBOOTH, NOV. 6
Simply Massachusetts band the Hotelier are one of the flagship bands of the emo revival that's in full moon right now. On the spectrum, though, the Hotelier pack a bit more than many of their peers, sometimes painting beyond with greater nuance and dimension. But even when it abides by emo convention, the music's got honesty, craft and commitment. And sometimes you just can't ask for more than that. So bleed on, sad boys.
Fun fact for Orlando heads: The Hotelier originally went by the phonetically similar name the Hotel Year, which bears a conspicuous resemblance to My Hotel Year, themselves an emo act that was one of Orlando's most beloved indie bands. The Hotelier's Wikipedia page even details this coincidence in a sort of amusingly catty way wherein the band changed their name because they "did not think the name was any good and there was a band called My Hotel Year which they did not want to be confused with."
But looking forward, perhaps the band most worth watching is Austin's Alex Napping, who made their Orlando debut.
Because of its track record this decade as a leading antenna in the field, ambitious label Father/Daughter Records – a bicoastal operation whose eastern foothold is in Miami – has emerged as one of the most distinguished farm leagues in the indie rock world in recent years, with very notable picks like Diet Cig and Vagabon. And Alex Napping are one of the latest stars on the Father/Daughter roster with probably one of the best albums heard this year in Mise En Place.
Their guitar pop is a shimmering study in melody and mood that boasts sparkling pop aptitude and interesting dynamics – and it plays great on record. Live, however, the usually defining voice of frontwoman Alex Cohen was often so slight that it only seemed to contend in their quiet moments, which is unfortunate since the band's bigger strokes are their more distinctive ones. She finally stepped up midway through their set, though, just in time for standout song "You've Got Me." Cohen's got a voice of character, it just needs to be dialed in and unleashed for them to fulfill their considerable potential. But when you have recordings that already show songwriting of exceptional promise like Alex Napping, all else is just a matter of time.