While Cats on Fire and The Radio Dept. were the main attractions at Friday night's show at Don Hill's, but really the whole bill was pop-solid. Swedish trio Liechtenstein, recent signees to Slumberland, played their first ever American show. Dressed alike in white tops and black skirts, Renée, Naemi and Elin kept banter to a minimum and ran through a set of their best songs so far, including "Apathy," "Roses in the Park," and their best song, "Everything's for Sale." (Which should really be amended to their Slumberland album, but it's not.) The obvious, and most common, comparision is with the Vivian Girls, but where VGs came to their sound somewhat accidentally, it's clear that Liechtenstein are fans of the Shop Assistants, Mo-Dettes, Would-Be Goods, Talulah Gosh, and other C-86 touchstones. They are also are better musicians, though Vivian Girls might have an edge in the tunes department. Melodies and stage presence are a bit chilly, but it's a cool blast nonetheless.
Liechtenstein's debut album, Survival Strategies In A Modern World, is out June 9 on Slumberland. Los Angeles' Tartans, meanwhile, are warm as the California sun. They are cute, dance constantly (on stage and off) and are clearly huge fans/scholars of indiepop, from the glockenspiels and melodicas to their clothes to the great cover of early Go-Betweens single "People Say" they played. I do wish they had more songs that rival their great "Cats of Camerford" 7" but as they've only released two singles so far, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
"America, your economy is shit." Cats on Fire singer Mattais Björkas was addressing the NYC Popfest crowd at Don Hill's with grave seriousness. "Our is too of course. And greenhouse gasses are at an all-time high. Of course, that didn't stop us from bringing a suitcase full of Finish bottled water on the airplane with us." Rimshot! It was at this point that I realized I had him figured all wrong. Impeccably dressed and coiffed, prone to pursed lips, I thought he was kind of a sourpuss when the Finnish band played Don Hill's at last year's Popfest.
But last night I got it — he's hilarious. And I don't mean laugh at this person prancing around onstage. Björkas is a genuinely funny guy with a bone-dry wit and tongue planted firmly in cheek. And when not playing guitar, he has the guts to dance onstage the way many of us dance to the Smiths when no one else is at home. The rest of the band are ace, it should be noted, ably replicating the immaculate, arpeggiated pop (think Aztec Camera, Smiths, Felt, Eggstone) found on 2007's The Province Complains and the excellent, just-released Our Temperance Movement. And Cats on Fire are a flat-out great live band, the whole group has chops, and the audience was lapping it up, dancing… well, more of a bob and sway than the geek-out the music really meritted.
If you missed them Friday night, Cats on Fire play Bruar Falls with Swedish trio (and fellow Popfest-ers) Liechtenstein on Tuesday, May 19. I highly recommend you clear your schedule. Our Temperance Movement was just released in the U.S. on Matinee Recordings and if you like the MP3s on this post, you're gonna want to get the whole thing.
I shot video of two songs, which you can watch if you click through the jump…
Because there's absolutely nothing else going on on Friday — no shows of interest, no birthday parties of close friends, no Battlestar Galactica — I know all you NYers are going to want to come to Don Hills on Friday night to see my Manhattan DJ debut. The fine folks at Mondo! are letting me spin this week. My set's promptly at 11pm and then The Nouvellas (sort of like a better, soulful, American version of the Pipettes) perform at 11:30. I'll get a second, perhaps longer, slot later in the night when everybody's good and drunk. What will I play? Probably Metronomy, but as to the rest of the set… show up and see.
Cover is $5 but if you print this post out, it's only $3. Here are the details…
Friday February 6th
Dance to Indie Rock & Pop, Brit Pop, Post-Punk, Swedish pop, Girl
Groups and more, every 1st & 3rd Fridays of the month!
Nouvellas [Live Performance, 11:30pm]
Join us in welcoming Brooklyn's increasingly notorious Nouvellas. Paying homage
to 60's girl groups and motown grooves, this local quintet are fronted by the
lovely and entertaining vocals of Jamie and Leah. For fans of of Dusty, Aretha,
The Shirelles, and all things 60's. PLUS
Bill Pearis [DJ Set, 11:00pm]
Also this week, Bill Pearis, of Brooklyn Vegan and Soundbites fame, brings his indie expertise to the Mondo dance floor!
——— @ Don Hill's
511 Greenwich Street (at Spring St.)
11:00 pm – 4 am
$5 Cover or 3 Flyer or Invite*
——— Directions To Don Hill's
Scandinavians are made of different stuff than us Americans. Cats on Fire singer Mattias Björkas looks like he was gene-spliced from equal parts Low-era David Bowie, James Dean, and Morrissey. His look was perfect, from the boots and perfectly rolled jeans to the ascot and perfectly jelled hair. I was sort of mesmerized by his hair, I'm not sure why.
on Fire's music is just as immaculate. A delicate — though sometimes
speedy — jangle with occasional country flourishes (and a love of
Motown), it's the perfect soundtrack for biking in the countryside, or
walking through the park. And you can dance to it… in an indie-pop
kind of way. It's hard not to bop along to rediculously catchy songs like "Draw in the Reins," "I am the White-Mantled King" and "Higher Grounds." I'm pretty sure this is the first Finnish band I've ever seen (here's hoping The Dø make it this way soon, though) and from this one experience and say that they don't quite have the command of the English language their Swedish neighbors do, and Björkas stage banter came off stilted and a bit cold. But the music was warm enough.
This was Night Two of Popfest NYC, this time way the hell West at Don Hill's for a party co-sponsored by the party people at Mondo NYC. The late set time (1AM) didn't seem to phase anyone. The Pelle Carlberg autographed guitar made another appearance. If it was too late for you, word is Cats on Fire will be playing tomorrow at the Popfest closing BBQ at Union Pool. It's a great lineup, with The Cannanes, The Hermit Crabs, and lots more. Starts at 2pm.
I also shot video of their song "Mesmer and Reason":