Peter Bjorn and John | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 5.03.2011

Yes, it's a damn Hipstamatic shot... but they come out better than ones on my 'real' camera so suck it.“A couple years ago we made an album called Living Thing and when we toured we used some ‘sythesizers’ and ‘soundbanks’,” Peter Moren told the Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd as Bjorn Ytlling provided air-quotes. “It’s just us this time. Plus, those synths were bad for the¬†environment. Let’s kill electro!”

This approach is also true with Peter Bjorn and John‘s new album, Gimme Some, that has no synthesizers or soundbanks just three Swedish dudes playing some insanely catchy songs with an energy that belies their age. It was this re-energized PBJ we got at MHoW on Tuesday night, playing for over 90 minutes. Peter Moren, in particular, was a bundle of energy, deploying flying leaps and Townsend-style windmills and even jumping into crowd for a stripped-down, harmonica driven version of Living Thing‘s “Nothing to Worry About.”

As to Living Thing, while not a terrible thing to do, the ambitious record did lack in the basic PB&J-ness that made people fans of the band in the first place. Tonight, what songs they did from that album were reworked into the lean mean pop machine format favored on Gimme Some to terriffic results. “It Don’t Move Me,” was given a “Curtis Mayfield treatment” which worked great. There are some great tunes hidden amongst that album’s studio trickery.

This was kind of an odd show, setwise, at least from the standpoint of someone who’s seen them many times before. They opened with Writer’s Block‘s epic indie rock workout “Up Against the Wall,” a song almost always saved as their last song of the night. To me it seemed like a statement of intent: “Here’s the song where we usually pull out all the stops. Expect us to keep it up the whole damn show.” And they did, even if occasionally it seemed maybe, just a little bit, forced.

But Swedish bands tend to be on the showy side anyway. (Ever seen Soundtrack of Our Lives?) And who cares, really? Showmanship is not a bad thing, and neither is being able to play your instruments which PB&J truly do. I can barely sing and play guitar at the same time. Moren was knocking out leads in mid-air. And double who cares when you have so many great songs. I think they played the whole of Gimme Some, plus about half of Writer’s Block, and a couple from Living Thing. (Nothing from the first two albums I don’t think.)

Someone yelled for “Young Folks” during the first encore and Bjorn, he of the arid wit, replied something like “You can buy it at the merch table” but of course you can’t not do your biggest (only) genuine hit. So it was no surprise when that drum roll started their final number of the evening. It was, however, a surprise when co-star Victoria Bergsman came out on stage to sing with the band. I’m pretty sure she lives in Williamsburg these days, so it shouldn’t have been so unexpected but she wasn’t at the Bowery shows the night before. Maybe she didn’t have a Metrocard.
looking lovely in a peach sherbert dress

MP3: Peter Bjorn and John – Eyes (buy it!)

Gimme Some is maybe, just maybe, PB&J’s best album, the most consistently listenable from start to finish. Smart move of Bjorn to hand over production reigns to Per Sundig (of the late, great Eggstone) to keep them in the garage, so to speak. Hooks this big don’t need flashy production. Or even whistling.

Bachelorette | Cake Shop | 6.15.2009

"I'm checking Twitter and everyone's talking about me. What? There's a reality show called that too?"

Most of the New Zealand music that makes it to these shores is of the Flying Nun variety: jangly pop, decidedly male. (Albiet uaually sensitive males.) Annabel Alpers, who records under the name Bachelorette, makes music that is keyboard-heavy, thick with harmony, and often ready for the dancefloor. And she's a girl, obviously. But like so much Kiwi pop, Bachelorette is humanistic and warm… and super-catchy. This was Bachelorette's first show of her U.S. tour supporting her second album, My Electric Family, with help from a drummer and Australian Pikelet who did a set of her own earlier in the night. While laptops surrounded Alpers, the most crucial instrument was live: her breathy, fragile voice that at times recalled Beth Orton or Electrelane. Ten songs went by quickly, and Cake Shop owner Andy Bodor yelled from behind the bar that they could do as many more songs as they had ready. Alpers then gave us one more song, but I'd have stayed all night. I've got a new crush.

MP3: Bachelorette – Mindwarp (Buy it from Drag City)
MP3: Bachelorette – Lifetime (Get it from Emusic)

Bachelorette plays Union Hall tonight (6/16) and then heads across the country before heading back to NYC to open for Here We Go Magic at the Seaport Music Festival on July 3. All those tour dates are below this video I shot of Bachelorette performing "Her Rotating Head" from the new album.

Bachelorette Tour Dates
Jun 15 – Cake Shop NEW YORK, New York
Jun 16 – Union Hall BROOKLYN, New York
Jun 17 – Kung Fu Necktie PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania
Jun 18 – Talking Head BALTIMORE, Maryland
Jun 19 – Crofoot Ballroom – Pike Room Pontiac, Michigan
Jun 20 – Hideout CHICAGO, Illinois
Jun 21 – 7th Street Entry MINNEAPOLIS
Jun 22 – The Jackpot Saloon LAWRENCE
Jun 23 – Larimer Lounge Denver, Colorado
Jun 24 – Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, Utah
Jun 25 – Neurolux Boise, Idaho
Jun 26 – The Red Room Kennewick, Washington
Jun 27 – The Triple Door Seattle, Washington
Jun 28 – The Aladdin Theater Portland, Oregon
Jun 30 – Bimbo's 365 Club SAN FRANCISCO, California
Jul 1 – The Troubadour Los Angeles, California
Jul 3 – Seaport Music Festival New York, New York