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The Twilight Sad and A Northern Chorus Live

I caught this show courtesy of Bradley’s Almanac, a far more user-friendly website than this one (lists upcoming Boston shows, posts audio bootlegs of shows, and gives away tickets and CDs). Aereogramme was initially the headliner for the show, which piqued my interest, so I checked out the other two bands to see how early I’d like to go. But by the time the ticket giveaway started, Aereogramme’s visa problem had forced them to delay their visit to Boston until the end of April. I liked what I had heard of A Northern Chorus and The Twilight Sad, so I was glad to move the show from game-time decision to no-risk night out with my random drawing.

I find it hard to think of adjectives that aren’t variations of “nice” or “pleasant” for A Northern Chorus’s opening set, which is unfortunate because I remembered enjoying every song they played. The Canadian six piece coupled violin and cello with frequently effects-laden guitars, but most of the set limited the crescendos in favor of tasteful introspective indie rock, reminding me of a more up-tempo incarnation of early Very Secretary. I hesitate on using “nice” or “pleasant” since those are effectively synonyms for “bland” or “inoffensive,” but ANC’s songs are well crafted enough to hold my attention. Can’t say I’ll go out of my way to see them headline a show, but I’ll gladly watch them open for a band I like, perhaps even when they open for Aereogramme’s make-up performance at the end of April.

Immediately after their set I chatted with Brad of Bradley’s Almanac, who was successful in determining my identity through a lone tidbit; “Guy with Pentax SLR” is apparently specific enough. I somehow managed to get on the topic of Juno—it doesn’t take much—and learned that he’s a fan, so any affections I have for his site should be doubled now. Ironically, talking to Brad distracted me from my lone between-set task of picking up a free Northern Chorus CD from the merch table. Oops.

The Twilight Sad had an air of future stardom, a claim I rarely make and a status I have almost no interest in predicting. (This show was a week before Pitchfork ranked them in the Best New Music category.) I credit the stage presence and vocals of James Graham for much of this air, since his vague disinterest and occasional menace were surprisingly captivating and his vocals ring out clear, even when yelled a bit. The band has a few great songs already—“And She Would Darken the Memory” and “Walking for Two Hours”—and those came across quite well in the live setting, giving Graham a chance for minor histrionics and secondary percussion duties. It’s hard for me not to think of them as the shoegazer version of Idlewild, which is an admittedly lazy comparison based primarily on the shared Scottish accent, but the Twilight Sad have a similarly anthemic quality. The band needs a second guitarist/keyboard player/accordion player, however, in order to fully replicate the depth of sound on their recordings. They certainly were loud enough, but the bass player’s tone was horrible for most the set and the guitarist wandered through lazy arpeggios during a few songs’ verses. Hell, they may not even need to worry about that, since I have the sense that, in true Idlewild fashion, the aesthetic will soon take a backseat to the songwriting and vocal charisma. I’ll pick up Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters when it’s available on vinyl, but their second record should be pivotal in terms of the band’s development. Keep an eye on them in any case.

I did take some pictures of both bands, although the set for A Northern Chorus turned out considerably better than the set for The Twilight Sad. I tried setting the white balance to the Middle East Upstairs’ lighting conditions, which worked out far better than I expected, but I personally prefer the cast of a certain color from the house lights.