Too much this week for foreplay, so giddyup …
I’ve wavered on respected local band the Sugar Oaks. While watching them at Back Booth April 29, I think I finally figured out why. Overall, I dig the golden vibe of their warm, ’70s-kissed porch soul. Despite their music’s generally breezy bearing, the sometimes intricate arrangements show that this is clearly a band that also seeks complexity. However, that doesn’t always improve the songs. Some of the Sugar Oaks’ best moments are their simplest in terms of construction. Though technical ambition is a commendable thing, the song is what should win when all is said and done. And that means exercising good judgment about ordering and proportion in song composition. More of this would serve the Sugar Oaks well.
Sharing the stage was Brooklyn/Philly country rock act American Babies. Their easy-flowing set was lighter on the twang than we’re used to down here, but their tea was sweet enough to dig.
Headlining was Athens Elephant 6 band Elf Power. Only a small crowd turned out, which is no way to greet indie rock veterans of their stature. Admittedly, their music isn’t so much the quirky psych-pop it used to be, but it has greater maturity and focus now. They’re still a reliably solid band. Being able to make good music and survive for nearly 15 years deserves more respect.
The truly elfin act came to town when Múm swung through the Plaza Theatre for their only Southeast date on April 30. In terms of being unusual, they’ve got a lot going for them. Not only do they take an experimental approach to pop music but they’re also Icelandic, which is, like, odd squared. Their live sound was a coalescence of many tinkling elements tiptoeing around and investigating each other like tiny, curious creatures. The spell of eternal enchantment that grips them can sometimes be a bit Euro-goofy, but their meditative songs are models of accomplished whim.
Openers the Postmarks nicely maximized the scale of the voluminous theater with video projections that spanned the vast back wall. Musically, the Miami band mines the same pristine fields of stylish nostalgia that ’60s pop revivalists like Saint Etienne, Cinnamon and Ivy perfected. There’s an infinite charm to this kind of fare and they possess all that. But for now, they’re only decent.
Their chosen genre is all about finesse, and in order to become truly good, they need a bit more of it. As the central pillar of their sound, the reedy ingénue coo of singer Tim Yehezkely needs work live. Her voice carried sweetness in tone but its movements lacked the requisite sophistication, sometimes suffering from simplicity and missed notes. The more polished music, beaming with Bacharach and cinema, should perhaps take the wheel in the meantime. Still, this is a band loaded with potential, capable of true loveliness. With minimal tweaking they’ll be prime time.
As reaffirmed at the Social later that night, no act can compete with Meat Beat Manifesto in the game of video. Central to their live performances is a salvo of explosive clips and live video mixed at relentless pace. Add in some of the most psychotically complex music ever created and you have a pretty sick audio-visual experience. One of my favorite live acts ever, actually. This is your brain. This is your brain on Meat Beat Manifesto. Mmm, that’s one delicious scramble. If anyone on the Social’s staff happened to sweep up the pieces of my head from the floor after the show, I’ll collect ’em the next time I’m in.
Also impressive there on April 28 was Austin buzz band White Denim. It’s not often that technical rock music truly rocks. In their case, it rocked big time, mama. Their high-octane, bluesy garage-rock was swaggering and studly. With a righteous blend of muscle and brains, this band is going to go places.
TOUGHING ME, TOUCHING YOU
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