Father John Misty by now needs little introduction. After four critically acclaimed albums in just under six years, Josh Tillman, whose stage moniker is known just as much for his off-stage words as his sarcastic and often self-deprecating lyrics, has made a name for himself. But with his latest album, God’s Favorite Customer, he focused on more personal matters. Delivered in that great Harry Nilsson meets Randy Newman style, the bite was still there, but it was more focused at The Anthem on Thursday.
There’s a magic that Amelia Meath (vocals) and Nick Sanborn (producer/sound engineer) create. It’s an infectious feeling generated by Amelia’s compelling voice and energetic dance moves — itself buoyed by the soundscapes formed and molded by Nick’s panel of sounds. Over the past two LPs (2014’s self-titled Sylvan Esso and last year’s What Now), the North Carolina-based Sylvan Esso created beat-soaked tunes that stick in your head. But it’s their live show that’s a force to behold.
On Thursday night at The Anthem, the duo pulled no punches.
Courtney Barnett is no slouch. First there’s the fact that over the past couple of years she has toured constantly not only with her own band of Bones Sloane (bass), Dave Mudie (drums), and (more recently on this current tour) Katie Harkin (keyboards/guitar) but with Kurt Vile and most recently in Jen Cloher’s band.
Beach Slang — the loud, driving, heart-on-your sleeve band led by James Alex — has been making their brand of Replacements-tinged powerpunk for a few years now. Beyond the rough and noisy exterior, Beach Slang songs are about connecting with the feeling of being different or an outsider or being yourself despite what others think.
But there’s a soft center to that hard exterior. So when James Alex announced the new quiet focus on Beach Slang songs with a project called Quiet Slang, it seemed like a natural extension. The resulting album, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, is a beautiful retelling that sounds natural instead of forced, particularly when presented at Rock and Roll Hotel on Thursday.
There’s something to be said for artistry within art. Art is an act of creation, but the process of creating art can itself be something to behold and appreciate. On Historian, the second full-length LP from Richmond-based musician Lucy Dacus, you can almost see the interconnecting layers being pieced together to create these stories. And you could certainly hear them live at Ottobar on Wednesday.
Fleet Foxes made its return last year with the release and subsequent tour for Crack-Up (Nonesuch Records). The record is filled with the same self-reflective lyrics, swelling music, and gorgeous harmonies as the band’s previous two records, but it seems like a more focused record. After six years between Helplessness Blues and the new LP, it’s a refreshed welcome home for this band whose debut album turns 10 years old as of this writing.
For nearly 30 years, the Toronto-based band Sloan has shown how a band can be consistently great while being completely democratic. Each member — Jay Ferguson (guitar/vocals/bass), Chris Murphy (bass/vocals/drums), Patrick Pentland (guitar/vocals/bass), and Andrew Scott (drums/vocals/guitar) — takes on songwriting duties and each song is perfectly crafted and laden with hooks that keep fans coming back from the band’s debut Smeared to the recently released 12th album (appropriately titled) 12. Fans came back again for their latest show at Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday.