concert review: Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics @ Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario) - December 11, 2008
Josephine Olausson of Love Is All @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon
One of the better indie bills this year took over the Horseshoe Tavern last Thursday night, and while it was chillly outside, by the time Swedish headliners Love Is All hit the stage, the nearly packed crowded were heating things up inside. About 20 minutes off their 9 pm set time, Toronto guitar/drums duo took the stage and quickly dove into their off-kilter punkabilly, concoctions. Vocalist Slim Twig's sing-speak took a backseat for the most part to the instrumentation which felt almost like a battle between who could create the most intensity - Simone TB with her thoroughly propulsive and succinct drumming or Slim Twig with his incendiary electric guitar riffing and arrangements. They're in general a lot less accessible than other guitar/drums duos such as The White Stripes, a little more art punk, but overall were interesting to me in doses.
Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts have been getting some rotation in my CD player and as their debut album "Alight The Night" evokes the strong spirit of The Velvet Underground, their live set only did more to further that comparison. Lone female member Frankie Thomas took on the role of VU drummer Moe Tucker manning the bare bones drumkit which was but two drums, with no cymbals although I believe a tambourine was attached to one drum. Like VU, Crystal Stilts minimal stage presence (coupled with lead vocalists almost comatose vocals) could either be perceived as an exudation of cool or just disappointed boring. My perception is somewhat in the middle but only because the invigorating reverb-drenched melodies were enough IMO to keep the songs from sinking and enough of a distraction to keep me focused on the music rather than the band on stage.
As I'd expressed a few months ago, Love Is All's debut album "Nine Times That Same Song" which I picked up this past summer became my most listened to if not my favourite album this year and a little regret does eat at me that I hadn't known about the band and the album back in 2006 when the album came out and during that year when the band had passed through town at least a couple of times. 2008 brought the Swedes back to Toronto on the heels of their sophomore album "A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night". I hadn't listened to the new album save for a song or two prior to the show last Thursday, but it seems as if the band have continued their stream of spastic, skronky pop music. As loose and carefree as they sound on record, there was an even more ramshackle quality to their live set as pixie-ish vocalist Josephine Olausson's child-like vocal exhuberance collided with shout-out backup vocals, elastic guitar arrangements, rubbery bass lines, urgent drumming, scintillating keyboards, and skronky saxophone. It was sometimes a bit too ramshackle at times, arrangements maybe even a little bit off beat, and I sometimes missed the precision of the guitar arrangements I'd heard on record, but overall I couldn't deny the thrillingness of their live performance.
The set list was a mix of songs between the first and second albums with a cover of Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" thrown in for good measure. They best hit the mark(for me at least) on first album rave-ups like "Talk, Talk, Talk", "Busy Doing Nothing" and perhaps the best moment of the night on "Make Out Fall Out Make Up" as the coda of the song had vocalist Josephine and the audience (or at least some of them) chanting the title phrase with glee. But really there was nothing better to look at than petite vocalist Josephine Olausson breaking all expectations as what one might have perceived as a modest demeanour in Josephine suddenly chang as Josephine shifted into her frontperson role with purpose, grasping her mic, walking around the stage, assaulting her keyboards and playing the meanest cowbell you ever did have the pleasure of witnessing. Please come back soon.
Photos: Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics @ Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario) - December 11, 2008
MySpace: Crystal Stilts
MySpace: Love Is All