A sense of bored frustration and heavy expectation clings to the thick air in The Lexington this evening: sensations induced by the fact that this is, for most people in the sold-out audience, the first live show of 2011, and the first outside of the US for tonight’s headliners. But before Denver based husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore’s hazy nostalgic soundscape can populate the room, it is time for a musician born closer to home.
Catching the end of Lonely Galaxy’s opening set this evening, it seems that the New Year has brought with it a newly arranged (to me at least, having last seen a solo performance) backing band. Accompanying the often off-key romantic reflections of North Londoner Harry Granger-Howell is a violin, percussion and an extra guitar. Tonight the achingly melancholic, shatteringly bitter and effortless tender number ‘Have A Heart’ finally matches up to, and succeeds its recorded counterpart. Lonely Galaxy’s carefully penned, sparse compositions soar with a piercing intensity: the sheer awkwardness of Howell’s slow delivery compelling even greater frenzied moments when they arise.
Soon the summery zils and Beach Boy-esque guitar twangs of Tennis ripple through the increasingly stuffy air. Inspired by their eight-month voyage along the US east coastline, the duo play through shimmering set of tracks from their newly available debut album, Cape Dory. With an amateurish charm, their vintage, sixties inspired dream pop and endearing in-between-songs banter has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic.
Moore, and her incredible big 80s hair, cut a skinny, gently dancing figure against the bright purple lights and the rolling rhythms of songs the duo “only meant” for “middle-school dances”. The enveloping haze of much blogged about tracks ‘Baltimore’ and ‘Marathon’ are rather reduced this evening, allowing Moore’s delicate vocals to really come into a life of their own. Much stronger and forceful, her voice soars over Riley’s warm guitar strums.
Uniformly hushed, fuzzy and romantic, Tennis’s soundscape seems locked in a cheery, post-summary haze that doesn’t fully penetrate the cold air of this evening. Organ keys tenderly flow against muffled vocals and crackling percussion in a most beautiful, sepia-drenched manner but there is little variation. Even when we are told one particular track was written about the “worst time they had on their boat” because they were fighting, the song is saccharine sweet slice of doo wop.
Many tracks like ‘Waterbirds’ and ‘Cape Dory’ really do deserve the adoration they have inspired over the past few months, as do the happily married couple but I just wish there was a bit more fire in their music. But then again that is just not what soft, Americana surf infused dream pop is all about is it? As the set winds down Moore admits she would she would “love to dance more” but she is “a slave to the keyboard”, just as she would love to play more songs but they “don’t have enough for an encore.”