First off, this photo set is really great and worth a pass through, compliments in part to Glasslands gallery’s new “cloud cover” installation, and in part to the always impressive camera work of Ryan Muir. Bands in post-title listed in order of dominance, although there’s no reason to call winners between the morning benders and headliner Class Actress, both of whose sets alone made going out in the hostile cold for the marathon five-band lineup seem like the weekend’s smartest decision. First, the morning benders. They recently relocated to this neighborhood, and put it on notice with their debut Saturday night as bona-fide Brooklyn residents. Their new album Big Echo is affecting, catchy, emotionally earnest. Clever indie pop, basically, with breezy West Coast melodies meeting the sort of artsy, ethereal sweeps and swells you might expect upon learning it’s co-produced by Chris Taylor. Their live set nailed those elements unexpectedly well, innocent and endearing but not without force, high on presence and precision for a foursome so fresh-faced. Three years ago they had promise, but now they have “Promises,” along with a full record of stuff well worth checking. Album’s great, live show’s a lock.
They were followed by the headlining Class Actress, who’ve emerged as the cream of the Terrible Records crop. Class Actress is principally Elizabeth Harper, a former folkie who’s transformed into full-on synth-pop sexpot on the back of vintage synths, ’80s dance beats by way of New Order and evocative, sighing hooks. There was a shoulder-padded pantsuit (blazer demurely disrobed), a cameo from Caroline of Chairlift, and at least three girls at my side who decided they’d undress while dancing too why not. They didn’t know Class Actress before, but the songs from the ace Journal Of Ardency EP were inspiration enough. Elizabeth’s using the keyboard as a stand-in for someone to dance with helped. Likely so.
The night was branded by Terrible Records and used its co-founder, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, as its organizing principle (and organizing principal): three of the five bands are signed to Taylor’s label (Class Actress, Acrylics, and the recently profiled Twin Shadow); the morning benders’ Taylor connection is previously noted; and Blood Orange aka Lightspeed Champion aka Dev Hynes is, well, he was just available, I guess, and that is a good thing. Dev is a shape-shifter, already casting aside the punk of Test Icicles for Lightspeed Champion, which itself has gone from folk-strums to more full-throated rock, and a brief detour to Basement Jaxx electro-pop already. The Blood Orange set was Dev solo and singing to pre-recorded drum loops, guitars, bass, all presumably self-recorded. It felt like a workshop for something more, something different than we’ve heard from him and not without promise, if somewhat skeletal. There’s more at MySpace.
Also not without promise though without any cohesive sense of identity was Twin Shadow, who had a minor blog hit last week with “Castles In The Snow” and apparently has little interest in sounding like it live. Where Can and Kraftwerk were his cited influences before, and chilly synths marked his MP3, Twin Shadow’s (very first) live show was more along the lines of guitar rock with danceable rhythms and one slow jam. Nothing krauty about it, but there’s still time before that debut LP comes out and who knows what happens between now and then. One thing about Brooklyn — the sets and costumes are changing all the time.