On a dark and quiet Monday coming off a long holiday weekend, one could be forgiven for not wanting to venture out into the early winter cold. But, after five days of no shows, I took a chance that last night's Mercury Lounge bill would help take the chill off. Indeed, it did not disappoint.
Brooklyn's Neighbors kicked things off in front of a half-filled room, playing 90's synth pop over Noah Stitelman's hushed, emotive vocals, which came off sounding like a carbon copy of The National's Matt Berninger. Not that that's a bad thing, but if you can't lay claim to your own voice, then what's the point?
Far more arresting were ARMS, the one-time side project of former Harlem Shakes guitarist Todd Goldstein that has evolved into a full-time ambition. Goldstein, looking like the fifth member of Mumford & Sons with tie, vest and mustache, sang with passion and energy, backed by a wall of synth, guitar and drums that rose, fell, and rose again. It was easy to imagine these guys playing some festival stage this summer, with the golden sun setting behind them.
But, the real discovery of the night was Montreal's Braids, who held up their city's rep for well-crafted, startlingly original music. Using a mix of synths, drums and guitars, they crafted an immersive, magical soundscape that mixed everything from Afrobeat to shoegaze, sounding a good bit like High Places and (early) Animal Collective. Indeed, Raphaelle Standell-Preston's echoing vocals sounded a lot like Mary Pearson's for most of the set, but erupted towards the end in a frenzied wail that belied her willowy frame. Braid's other members - keyboardist Katie Lee, guitarist Taylor Smith and drummer Austin Tufts - all contributed multi-layered support, singing harmony and playing with pedals to conjure an angelic, irresistably pretty sheen. This was music to fall asleep to: dreamy and full of love.
Surprisingly, Braids had zero merch for sale last night: no t-shirts, no CD's, not even a button. Poetic justice, perhaps for those of us who made the effort to be there, but sad in the sense that we couldn't bring it home to remember, or share. Until next time, then.
More pics on Flickr.