I’ve gone through this album a couple times now. I love it. There are left turns all over the place. And not that Jamie xx deserves all the credit for the sound that The xx has carved out for themselves, but he is certainly something to be respected on his own.
Last night I headed over to the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood to check out Holly Miranda, The xx, and Friendly Fires. I’d seen Friendly Fires before at Coachella, and I’ve been in love for The xx since seeing their Basic Space video. Here’s a rundown of the night:
Before last night, I had never heard of Holly Miranda, but I can definitely see her name popping up more and more now that she has an EP coming out soon. Miranda plays a guitar along side a guy named Timmy. The slow pace of her songs and the ambient textures they create float along with her voice perfectly. Here’s my quick summary of what you can expect from Holly Miranda: slow, two guitars, harmonizng, Sigur ros vocal style, pretty, spacious.
As I said, The xx has been on my radar since I saw their music video for Basic Space on Pitchfork a few months ago. The trio (that was a quartet just a month ago) has this unique quality about themselves and their music in the same way that Ratatat does. Both bands have a sound that doesn’t seem to be like anything else out there.
Most of what I’ve read or heard about The xx’s live show is that they play their record note for note standing still like statues. I’m happy to report that this isn’t entirely true. Yes, they do just stand there intently focused on playing their songs, but they didn’t quite play exact replicas of what’s on their album. Maybe they just started doing this, but “Basic Space” had an extended remixed ending as did Infinity, and “Crystalized” had some new drums thrown in there. Because Jamie Smith plays their drums live on finger drum pads, it’s probably very difficult to improvise much of anything as far as percussion goes. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised when they went into the new sections of the songs.
I’ve also heard that the bass in the live show drowns out the vocals. Not true. If anything, I would have liked for the bass to be a bit more present in the mix. I know that The xx wasn’t headlining the show, so it might be expecting too much for the audio to be perfect. All in all, The xx gave me pretty much everything I wanted out of their live show.
The last time I saw the Friendly Fires I had to squeeze my way in to the back of the Mojave tent at Coachella because I got there after the first song had started. Last time I had tried that (w/ MGMT) I hated the sound so much I left after the next song and just laid down on the grass. Not so with Friendly Fires. I stayed the whole time and enjoyed one of my favorite pre-sunset shows of the weekend.
The Friendly Fires’ music is so danceable and upbeat, it still amazes me that they are signed to XL Recordings and not to DFA. This brings me to one problem I have with LA audiences: no one moves. Everyone is so worried about their dresses/shoes/shirts/hats that they’re paranoid that something is going to spill on them if they move any part of their body. It drives me insane. At Coachella everyone is dripping sweat dancing/jumping/moshing and you can do whatever you want because everyone else is too. But I digress.
Last night, aside from the dead audience, was a great night for the Friendly Fires. They played through their entire debut album, and thew their more recent single off of the reissue “Kiss of Life” in for size. What I really commend the band for is recreating the joy of the record onstage. They had two guys as a brass section last night, and those two guys did wonders for the sound. So many of the elements in the Friendly Fires’ songs are sparkling and fighting for your attention that the sound of them live is sensory overload. The drums are less a drum kit and more of a percussion lineup, the bass pounds songs like “White Diamonds” and “Lovesick” forward, and Ed Macfarlane’s voice tops it all off jumping back and forth from belting out power notes to sliding out his falsetto every once in a while.
I think I’m almost ready to put Friendly Fires up there with Hot Chip as one of my favorite upbeat poppy bands to see live. Both groups know exactly what to do with their songs in a live setting and walk the line separating funk, electro, and rock very well.