WHITE ARROWS at the TROUBADOUR by Allison Lampers

White Arrows played a much anticipated homecoming show, last Thursday at the Troubadour, after a string of North American shows supporting The Neighbourhood. Strange Babes and Wardell opened the night; the former, I was too late to catch. However, if their sound was like that of Wardell, the booking manager may need to reconsider the artists being put on the bills together. Quite a few audience members were very confused.

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Wardell did capture the attention of those who showed up early, presumably to see Wardell, as they were squealing, cheering, swaying, and singing along. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with Wardell, trickling in for the main attraction, major differentiation in performance and music style left us questioning if we were at the right concert. The group is described as an indie-folk “band,” but the cohesion among the members was not apparent at all. I assumed it was the frontwoman’s (Sasha Spielberg) project and the others were simply a live band. Her dancing and constant hair tousling was unfitting for the music, and therefore, distracting. They were enthralling for those fans seemingly discovering and building their musical preferences (it was an all-ages show…), but nothing stood out as original. Musically: I was reminded of Sara Bareilles’s instrumentation mixed with the overdone, vocal tones of 90s female pop-rockers. In addition, White Arrows is blatantly indie pop (specifically, psychotropical pop, as they so cleverly self-categorize), and Wardell simply did not blend well enough, or add enough individual style to the indie pop genre to make sense as an opener. There was some pop, some folk, and a lot of confusion. This seems harsh, but I’m sure Wardell may have potential on a different bill… At least they’re enjoying themselves; as Steven Spielberg’s kids, they might as well try whatever they want! But maybe directing is in their genes…
On to White Arrows.

 

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By the time White Arrows hit the stage, The Troubadour was packed. The band opened with a few new songs, leaving the audience holding on to the very last note of each song before erupting with applause; whether they had experienced the songs prior or not , they were clearly madly in love. Also, in traditional White Arrows style, there were visuals projected onto the wall behind the stage; however, unlike the usual abstract visuals, this was an animation of their EP cover art on loop (much like the singles/visual videos they have been releasing throughout the summer) which contributed a great deal to the audience being spellbound the first song in. Then, on the first beat of “I Can Go,” it was apparent what everyone was actually waiting for: the oldies of Dry Land is Not a Myth. The crowd started swaying and singing along immediately, leading Mickey to comment “And they say… LA doesn’t dance!” which only intensified a couple songs later with “Coming or Going” (which is impossible not to move to, in my opinion).
Overall, the set was a balanced blend of old and new songs, about two or three new to one favorite oldie, in preparation for the drop of their sophomore album, In Bardo, expected early fall.  It was evident not only in the music, but the performance style that the band is maturing; the hi-fi, animated projections, lack of Mickey’s wigs, and professional, yet very genuine expressions of gratitude made it clear that they are no longer a “baby band,” as Mickey once stated. With band maturation, comes personal maturation; and it was announced that it was Henry Church’s

 

 

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Toro Y Moi “Anything in Return’ Album Review

Chaz Bundick’s—the mastermind behind Toro Y Moi—musical output can be described as amorphic; he helped pioneer the chillwave genre in “Causers of This,” while channeling his inner dance music enthusiast through the side project Les Sins. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, at his album pre-release event, Bundick stated that he “wanted to make a pop album…because [he] really liked that kind of music with big studio-sounding synths and auto-tune,” because if it was “done tastefully and properly, it can be enjoyable.” “Anything In Return” neatly marries the hip hop funk beats of Toro Y Moi and the poppier sounds of Les Sins. Toro Y Moi’s production values have steadily increased with each successive album, and his ability as an arranger is evident in the new album’s beautifully retro-chic vibe.

“Anything In Return” kicks off with what is arguably its catchiest track: “Harm In Change.” It shies away from Toro Y Moi’s trademark syncopated rhythms that brought chillwave to popularity and instead opts for a steadier baseline accompanied by driving melodies and a palette of piano chords. Bundick’s airy vocals whisper over the rich instrumentals and finely-placed female vocal samples, creating a mellow yet groovy ambiance for the listener. “Say That,” another standout number, unites the best elements of past experiments. The rippling beat works busily behind arpeggiated harmonies in an endless head-bobbing sensation. Vocals take a backseat in this song, which accentuates the punchier bass as it takes center stage in this instant crowd pleaser.

The lyrics, “How’s it wrong / Where I want it / I’m only built to show,” pose a rhetorical question for listeners, as it asks them to search for weaknesses in the music in the album closer “How’s It Wrong.” Moreover, it reveals Bundick’s never ending quest to enhance his musical voice and perfect his passionate approach to composing enjoyable tunes.

Bundick presents 12 delightfully danceable tracks in a medley of club-friendly cadences and iconic synths that date back to his chillwave era. Toro Y Moi’s music is infectious, intricate and no doubt time consuming, and “Anything In Return” manages to underscore his aptitude for warm, inviting sounds despite taking a poppier approach.

Rating: 4.5 stars

-Neil Chua (Cloud Ground WED 7p-8p)

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