Great Good Fine Okay, positions the band for a major or major-indie signing with a company like Columbia or Frenchkiss and a very big 2015. Great Good Fine Okay exists in a universe where "Sleepyhead" never died or passed through to the other side of the cultural zeitgeist, "Not Going Home", either a tacit or explicit statement of the band chasing this feeling into the horizon. An ebullient synth line (there is no other kind in 2014) that recalls the 1975's "Chocolate" provides the backdrop for a glossy arrangement that reiterates this stylistic and lyrical intransigence: "I'm not going home," which, of course, like everything, is going to the beat.
In search of directness, viscerality even, the airy indie rockers, Flyte, release latest single, "We Are The Rain". Maybe declarative statements represent freedom in a world of interrogatives and conditionals, equivocations and prevaricators. The chord progression tumbles in titular fashion, synthesizers becoming literal or figurative rain, something of the same winking forthrightness as the band's debut single, 2013's outstanding, "Over and Out" (Get it, we're called Flyte, "Over and Out"; get it, "We Are The Rain", the synths are the rain and we are the synths, get it.). This breeziness is charming, and honesty is always becoming the new irony.
This review runs first on the Bowery Presents House List.
Last night at Mercury Lounge you could have run directly into the future with the New Zealand band Broods making their debut New York City appearance. Two of the vice presidents for alternative and New York radio promotion from Capitol Music Group stood in the back, almost unavoidable if also hidden in plain sight. Representing the two pathways forward for the band—alternative radio and heavy-rotation at Top 40—a Capitol signee at the close of last year, these two wizards of the radio dial likely control as much of the group’s future as a major commercial act as the duo themselves. It was hard to avoid this sense of becoming from a group that by virtue of sharing producer Joel Little, Oceania and a digital snare drum, recall something of the mercurial, stupefying success of Lorde.
R&B aesthetics in alternative circles may well be a bubble, but Capitol has already doubled down on brother-sister-act Broods. Although for the 200 new converts packing the room, theirs was a different sort of business, a chance to buy low on—to buy intimacy from—a band seemingly about to head for your radio dial and living room. This was like listening to Chvrches in Glasgow two years ago or Lorde in Brooklyn last spring. Everyone arrived chasing some form of the future. Broods opened with “Never Gonna Change,” Georgia Nott’s vocals oozing fecundity if not outright sex, a mixture of footnotes from Dido to Imogen Heap. The sound registered somewhere between the aforementioned Ella Yelich-O’Connor and James Blake—slow-dance music for kids who hate to slow dance. Broods moved through “Pretty Thing” and “Sleep Baby Sleep,” the first owing much to Moby’s Play, the second featuring stirring vocals that would easily be at home on No Angel.
The closing movement of the set, a pithy eight songs, was highlighted by “Taking You There” (think: Avicii’s “Wake Me Up filled up with cold medicine), “Coattails,” another Dido-indebted jam, and “Bridges,” the song that earned the Capitol Records signing. “Coattails” featured the lyric of the evening, “a hit between the eyes,” before the whirring downbeat engaged, one of those literal and figurative direct hits that lays the foundation for buildings like Capitol’s 5th Avenue headquarters. Despite only one more day in America, Nott said they loved it here and would return. The feeling proved mutual, this much was obvious. Nott and the audience were both right, the set closed with a quiet new number, the future lying inside for a moment before it moved out there to Houston Street and into the American commercial night.
For this, you will have to work. Aptly titled Small Wonder, a Brooklyn band fronted by Henry Crawford, build a miniature metamorphosis on "Until I Open My Wings", the lead single from the band's coming LP, Wendy. The track opens to the brittle dawn of a vocal from Susannah Cutler - the first layer - the singer intones, "Each day my heart grows fonder / so one day I'll be you small wonder," name-checking the band in question and unleashing the idea of tiny brilliance that carries the arrangement to its crashing finish. The lyrics describe all states of becoming: moss growing on stone, rocks paving roads, butterflies, lovers in bloom, a song that snaps itself to full posture and then breaks into a run after the five-minute mark. It recalls the best parts of Loney Dear, a world where everything waits for a moment before being what it will be.
It is both metaphor and cold reality to be the 8:30 band on a Friday night. You're just starting out, and everyone knows it, whether they know you or not. Skyes, a Brooklyn four-piece, with ambition that easily outpaces their current Q-rating, took the stage at Cameo Gallery without saying a word. Singer DA Knightly would thank the crowd after the night's penultimate song, introducing the band for the first time, maybe unnecessarily. The set spoke for itself.
Any discussion of the rising stock of a band like Skyes begins and ends with Knightly. Toting what may well be the best voice in Brooklyn, she is a mixture of mad scientist - punching keys on one of the two iPads on stage while also playing a keyboard - and organic sprite, seemingly possessed by the nature and power of the band's arrangements, maybe even by her own voice. Opening with the propulsive, "Secondhander", this writer began to do the math: This is likely their second or third best song in their own estimation, still with hit-in-waiting "A Girl Named Jake" saved for the latter portion of the set. Labels should sit up in their seats and take notes. To my eye there weren't industry people in the audience (always look at the back: too well dressed, maybe a leather jacket if they're in their 40s, usually talking through some part of the set), but there will be in the future. The sound that came through the admittedly splashy acoustics of Cameo proved big enough to fill far larger rooms, a throwback to industrial pop bands like Garbage and Metric, a stadium-sized aesthetic playing in room that fire codes around 100.
The middle of the set dragged a bit, and the band should look to free Knightly from her keyboard duties, but the closing three songs would evangelize anyone. Running through "A Girl Named Jake", "Burden" and an as yet untitled closer large enough to sink Williamsburg into the East River, the band announced its arrival with its departure for the night. On record, "A Girl Named Jake" sounds like a Kate Bush research project, updated for the 2014 listener. In person, the sound is bigger and more ambitious, Knightly hitting intermediate pitches with deftness and sophistication. When she finally introduced the band, a bit of superfluity when you're playing mostly to friends and friends-of-friends, the scattered audience of beards, shoulder bags, and asymmetrical hair cuts already knew. It stood as an introduction nonetheless. She and the band should get comfortable with this part, the introduction; they're going to be meeting a lot more people.
Belgian Fog, begins to discuss the architecture of this problem on latest single, "Loveless Way". The argument proves as unequivocal as the opening lyrics, "It's easier to stay with you than search for someone new/ I'd rather let it be than have to find someone right for me." What follows is an exegesis on the power of mediocre partnership; it might as well be called "The Sound of Settling". Dale can't possibly believe all this, or at least that's this writers opinion, and "Loveless Way" stands in the specific hope that the singer's assessment is dead wrong.
Opening with unsettling Kate Bush vocal synths, Brooklyn four-piece Skyes bursts onto the scene with their debut single, "A Girl Named Jake". Easily one of the better singles of the year, vocalist DA Knightly unleashes withering professional blight on lyrics like, "After shows, drink 'til you die" and "As your days go by, just cope 'til your young body dies." Suffice it to say, if the synths don't kill you in the final movement, Knightly is interested in your metaphoric and literal death throughout "A Girl Named Jake". The stunning last go, a stuttering re-imagining of the chorus, sends Knightly out of over a bed of buzzing low-end electrical wires and the keyboard obligatos that nearly made you say, "It's in the trees!" at the outset.