I’ve been listening to L.A.-based girl troupe, Warpaint‘s latest track “Undertow” nonstop as of late. With multiple vocal tracks bleeding into each amidst of river of reverb, they sound like hipster ghosts (yeah, I just made that up). With only 2009′s Exquisite Corpse EP under their belt, the quartet has already landed themselves the opening spot on the xx’s current tour. They play Toronto’s Massey Hall tomorrow night (Sept. 29)!
Their debut full-length, The Fool, comes out October 26 via Rough Trade.
“Now I’ve got you in the undertow,” they sing on the track, and they’ve definitely got me.
[MP3]: Warpaint – “Undertow” (right click, save as)
Marina and the Diamonds / Young the Giants
Opera House, Toronto ON September 8
By Whitney Tam
Marina and the Diamonds (she is Marina Diamandis and her fans are the “diamonds”) has already established herself as an up-and-coming pop artist in her native UK, selling out shows and garnering a nomination for this year’s coveted BRIT Critic’s Choice award. With her first gig in Canada and her only stop in the country this tour at Toronto’s Opera House, Marina showcased the best The Family Jewels had to offer.
It would be easy to say that California’s Young the Giant are your typical indie rock band, but their lush arrangements, catchy guitar licks, and infectious energy were right on point to get the crowd hyped for Marina and the Diamond’s set.
The stunning raven-haired Brit sauntered on stage with a deadpan stare, shades, and an air of mystique that immediately commanded the full attention of the audience. She and her four-piece band opened the show with the appropriate “you-think-you-know-me-but-you-really-don’t” track, “The Outsider,” a sort of invitation to fans to really get to know Marina during the stretch of the show. Fan favourites like “I Am Not A Robot” and “Shampain” had the usually stiff Toronto crowd of 20-somethings jumping up and down and singing along word for word, while solo, piano-accompanied performances of “Numb” and “Obsessions” highlighted her unique brand of vocals (which are now stronger, steadier, and much improved).
Midway through the set, the band jammed to an instrumental build-up until Marina reappeared decked out in the infamous all-American letter jacket, dollar-sign glasses, and two (stuffed toy) burgers, signalling the jump into “Hollywood”―a humorous take on the starry-eyed, tabloid-obsessed society that is America.
Drilling through 12 of the 13 witty, radio-friendly tracks off her debut release, The Family Jewels, the show ended with a fitting two-song encore that summed up what separates Marina and the Diamonds from the never-ending crop of pop artists: her ability to flip pop culture on its head and create something new, honest, and unexpected. Stripped down to only a simple piano melody, she transformed 3OH!3′s raunchy “Starstrukk” lyrics into a subdued ballad (that if not executed properly could have been disastrous; luckily it wasn’t) and ended the night with chirpy “Mowgli’s Road,” the first single off her debut.
A true performer in all respects, Marina and the Diamonds put on a show that kept the audience captivated from start to finish, questionable dance moves and all. The entire set was laced with her distinct falsetto and signature high-pitched howls, yelps, wails, and cuckoos, and proved that she isn’t afraid to be quirky. Like she said in “Hollywood,” she isn’t Shakira or Catharine Zeta; she’s Marina. And her Diamonds were sparkling with her all night long.
This review was originally published on Exclaim.ca.
Best Coast (Los Angeles, CA)
Bethany Cosentino, multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, and drummer Ali Koehler (formerly of Vivian Girls) make up this aptly-named beach-friendly trio. Having just released their debut record Crazy For You in July, this sun-soaked, summer-drenched, cheery surf-pop record will having you wishing it were summer all year round.
Sleigh Bells (Brooklyn, NY)
Signed to M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T record label, this school teacher/former girl-group singer and ex-member of the now defunct post-hardcore band, Poison the Well, show nothing of their former lives. Together, Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller make gritty yet beautiful, fuzzed-out blood-pumping music.
Jenny and Johnny (Los Angeles, CA)
One of the few successful child actresses turned singers, Jenny Lewis made a name for herself as the Indie Queen in beloved Rilo Kiley. Her and longtime collaborator/boyfriend Johnathan Rice, a singer-songwriter himself, have joined forces to present Jenny and Johnny. Their full-length LP, I’m Having Fun Now, isn’t out until August 31, but they’ve offered up 3 new tracks off the album and a free download of “Scissor Runner.”
Embarking on her first headlining tour to Canada, Pennsylvania’s own Priscilla Ahn (now rooted L.A.) stopped by Toronto’s Drake Hotel to give our ears some much needed lovin’. And it seems that her music has reached many satisfied ears as her concert was sold-out – although that might not be all that difficult to do considering Drake Underground’s capacity is 200. However, considering Ahn gets no radio-play or promotion in Toronto, that’s quite a feat for an up-and-comer.
Currently on tour with Ahn was fellow L.A. artist Robert Francis, who I’m guessing with relatively unknown to the crowd. He was a little awkward and seemed uncomfortable on stage and had little to say when he tried. I suppose he wanted his music to speak for itself. Or he was just nervous. I’m leaning towards the latter. Francis’ music, however, did leave an impression. His guitar melodies were incredibly catchy and he playing was reminiscent of John Mayer (even including his ‘O’ faces), and you could tell his was completely sincere and fully “there” in his performance, but his singing seemed forced and unstable at some points. All in all his performance was very enjoyable. Francis’ rough and raw vocal style was an interesting juxtaposition to Ahn’s silky-smooth tunes and made for a tantalizing appetizer before Ahn’s main dish.
Priscilla Ahn came on at around 10 PM to a crowd excitedly anticipating her angelic voice. When she opened with “Dream” and you could literally hear a pin drop. The crowd was silently listening in awe as her quiet, yet powerful, voice enveloped the room in a lush fairytale of her making. One of the best things about the show were her little introductions and stories before each song. From talking about boobs, parties in the Hollywood Hills, getting high, being afraid of getting beat up by animals, and living in a tree, Ahn was anything but boring. I think I looked forward to her stage banter almost as much as her singing, because she was just so personable and her laugh was just about the cutest, most endearing thing ever!
What’s special about Ahn is how organic her music is. She uses just the right amount of instruments in a live setting: her and her guitar, harmonica, kazoo with just a backing base player and a keyboard/bell (?) player. Ahn strips down her instrumentation to the simple bare essentials of old-style folk, following in the humble footseps of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Her voice is really the only instrument she needs as it carries her pieces. Sometimes she didn’t even need words – just “oohs” and “aahs” on a loop was enough to carry the song and convey emotion. Her loops pedal was a key part of her performances, allowing her to create beautifully crafted layers of harmonies.
Standout performances of the night were the hilarious (and true!) “Boobs Song”, “In A Tree” (a personal favourite of mine), “Wallflower”, and a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “I’ll Never Smile Again” that left Ahn standing without her guitar, completely vulnerable and nervous, as she had kept reiterating to the crowd (apparently she got a message that the writer’s son might be in audience). Priscilla Ahn’s soothing melodies and delicate, crystal clear vocals are enough to lull any person into sweet dreams (in a good way!). And her voice is so clear and sincere that it’s almost inhuman. But it’s her human qualities – her personality, her storytelling, her lyrics, and her vocal chops – that make her so unbelievable…and well, believably human.