Hot off an expansive USA & UK tour with The Weeknd, and anticipating the release of her debut album Goddess this September, LA Alt-R&B songwriter BANKS stopped by Underground Arts this past Saturday. BANKS first hit my radar last October, when she stopped in Philly with The Weeknd and Anna Lunoe at the Susquehanna Bank Center. I bought her London EP, and marveled at the instrumentation, songwriting, and sheer expansiveness of her sound, despite the fact that she hadn’t even put out a full-length album. I have admired BANKS from that point forward, and her music has stayed on my rotation since.
When I discovered I was able to cover her Underground Arts show, I was under the impression that I would receive the same BANKS that I had been listening to for the past nine months: unique, intricate R&B songwriting and excellent Erykah Badu-esque vocals. While I certainly got both of these things this past Saturday, what I received in addendum was an incredible display of stage presence, especially from an R&B singer, powerhouse vocals during every chorus, and a two-piece backing band doing the job of at least 4 band members. Highlights from the evening included the chorus of “Brain,” in which BANKS belted her heart out to the crowd and the crowd belted right back, her refreshing cover of Aaliyah’s 1998 hit “Are You That Somebody?,” and her amped up version of “Drowning,” a a track off her upcoming September debut.
At the end of the night, I left Underground Arts certainly impressed, but also hopeful for BANKS’ future; if she continues on the trajectory she’s currently on, she is extremely well-poised to take her place among the ranks of songwriters such as Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira, and Lorde, and potentially surpass them, both in songwriting and vocal talent. Having been nominated both for BBC’s Sound of 2014 and for MTV’s Brand New award prior to dropping a full-length album, I certainly think we’ll be seeing a good deal more of BANKS in the future.
Joining BANKS was seapunk producer/curator Jerome LOL, who treated early birds to an ethereal set of indie electronica laced with equal parts deep house, syncopated 808 percussion, and expansive vocoder synthesizer.
Danish musician MØ will perform at Johnny Brenda’s tonight with Erik Hassle. Currently touring the U.S. for the first time in support of her debut LP No Mythologies to Follow, Karen Marie Ørsted has been making quick work of moving to the forefront of the electronic-pop dance scene. She released her first singles in 2012 and has since worked with Avicii while topping the line-ups at festivals across the globe. Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here. Check out “I Don’t Wanna Dance” below.
When the three inordinately talented youngsters that make up London Grammar played their first Philadelphia show, the turnout wasn’t that great. Blame the fact that it was on a Monday, or that their sultry brand of electro-soul takes a little time to fully land in people’s heads. Either way, the handful of folks in the audience witnessed something music lovers cannot help but chase: the elusive “I knew them when” gig, where the kinetic energy of something massive begins to take shape.
Tonight, Norwegian outfit Highasakite presents another one of these moments at Underground Arts. Their sound is a new twist on something familiar, a pop-friendly brand of atmospheric indie rock that rings of bands like Phoenix and Yeasayer. Crowning the top of their potent synth-strings and climactic builds is singer Ingrid Helene Håvik, whose alto voice and surrealist lyrics cut through the mix for some of the catchiest choruses of any band making music today.
London Grammar also clearly knew a great moment when they saw it, bringing Highasakite on select US tour dates last month. Tonight, the band caps a small headlining American tour (including small-but-hearalded venues like DC’s Black Cat) before heading off to Europe in support of their second full-length Silent Treatment. This is a show worth seeing, if only to say “I knew them when” before they start selling out bigger venues.
Oh man how I wish I could tell you a cartoon band a la Jem and the Holograms was playing at Johnny Brenda’s tonight, but you know what? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a pretty freaking great alternative, even if they’re only cartoons in their amazing new video for “Until The Sun Explodes.” (Watch it below.) Last month the band released its latest and best album, Days of Abandon, and it’s a delightful set of anthemic ethereal dream pop. You probably know all the 80s / 90s comparison points by now (if not: Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths) – regardless of who they might sound like, The Pains are the genuine article. Tickets and information on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
Austrailian indie-pop outfit Cub Sport will play this month’s Communion Club Night at Underground Arts for their very first show in Philadelphia. This tour is the first US/Canada run for the band who self-released their Paradise EP last year. Their sound is super energetic and poppy at times (see “Paradise”) and more mellow and subdued at others (see “Shuffle”) but it’s all done in a dewy dream pop context that’s pretty hard to resist at both ends of the spectrum. Watch “Paradise” below and get tickets here.
“We’re going to play an album,” Matt Pond tells a Philly crowd in the colorful low lights of a basement room. “And it goes something like this.” The singer and songwriter then launched straight into Emblems’ opening track, “KC.”
It’s been 10 years, down to the month, since the release of the haunting Matt Pond PA album Emblems. And now 5 full-lengths, 7 EPs, 9 singles, and a name strip-down later, the band is briefly slipping back on the “PA” for a May-long, mini North American tour. Coming back to its early roots Friday night, Matt Pond and his band – who were based in Philly once upon a time – celebrated the album’s 10th anniversary with a three band bill at Underground Arts.
First to the stage was Philly’s rising folk rock group Rosu Lup. Backed by strings and light orchestrations, the core trio blends beautiful Americana-esque harmonies with the powerful elegance of cello, violins, and a bit of trumpet. Giving the audience all that they had, Rosu Lup played an ethereal set complete with tunes off of their recent Currents EP, a cover of Matt Pond’s “Brooklyn Fawn,” and a well-received cello solo. Although their inspirations seem to be somewhat eclectic, Rosu Lup’s dynamic orchestrations stitch together a variety of thoughts and sounds seamlessly. I’m not one to catch too many trends before they happen, but this is definitely a band you should keep your ears on.
Next, Ohio pop-folk quad The Lighthouse and the Whaler took over the stage with their jaunty tunes and knee-bouncing energy. Touring alongside Matt Pond for the 10th anniversary, the band brought along a violin / keyboard floater who added in a certain oomph to their already-invigorating blend of mandolins, glockenspiels, guitars, and drums. Getting the crowd on their toes while keeping on his own, lead singer Michael LoPresti lead the band through a series of tunes including the title track off of their 2012 album This is an Adventure. With a sound similar to The Last Bison and Lord Huron, this is one band you don’t want to miss next time they’re in town.
Finally Matt Pond took to the stage, humbled that so many fans came out to support the tour and their upcoming happenings. “It’s like ‘people know this stuff?’” Pond tells me bewildered while shaking hands after the show. But when it comes to knowing Matt Pond’s work, Philly knows it to a tee. “I’m going home, back to New Hampshire. I’m so determined. I’m so determined…” the crowd sang long in awe as Pond and his band flawlessly played though the “honest dose of melancholy” album, as Paste Magazine described Pond in 2004. To complete the nostalgic show, the band came back to the stage for a four song encore including “Love to Get Used” from their 2013 release The Lives Inside the Lives In Your Hands.
As a ‘thank you’ to all of his listeners, Pond recently released Skeletons and Friends via Noisetrade. “It’s an album of brightened corners and beautifully incomplete sentences. It’s the structure and skeleton of what’s to come,” Pond describes, which is the perfect way to describe the framework tracks in my opinion.
Check out and reminisce with the photo gallery and set list from Friday’s show below.
Tonight, underground rap sensation Pharoahe Monch will bring his talents to the Milkboy stage as he celebrates his new album P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The new disc, which features guest appearances by Black Thought, Talib Kweli, and more, is a continuation of the story he tells on his previous record W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) of his place in the industry as an artist and in America as a black male. Listen to lead single “Bad MF” below and get tickets here.