Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tomorrow Never Knows 2011: Alex Winston, Little Dragon

Posted by Andrew 

Little Dragon at Lincoln Hall
After two nights off, I was well enough to make it back to Lincoln Hall for the final night of Tomorrow Never Knows. As the title of the festival suggests, many of these artists are to be on the lookout for in the near future, and Alex Winston is an artist certainly fitting that description. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has been featured on many sites’ lists of musicians to look out for this year and she’s already toured with Ted Nugent and opened for Chuck Berry. She mentioned that she was originally from Detroit, but it was said musically even before that. She’s got a lot of soul to say the say the least and draws clear inspiration from Motown artists; don’t forget to factor in the live spark indebted to the Motor City’s proto-punks of the '60s. The music itself finds itself in the pop realm but with lyrics beyond the shallow slutwave that has overtaken the air recently. The female backing choral trio adds sweet harmonies and a new depth to the often weighty lyrics. Winston is clearly a very talented songwriter and performer but it just wasn’t something for the crowd that night, who never submitted to her pleas of audience handclaps as much as she had hoped.

Winston’s set was rather short, continuing what seemed to be a reoccurring theme for the festival (or just odd coincidences between the shows I went to). But to make up for every minute I lost over the weekend was Sweden’s Little Dragon. The four-piece is fronted by Swedish-Japanese Yukimi Nagano who utilized the stage to its full potential. Whether it was her dance-like-no-one’s-watching attitude or just the groove of the music, the crowd was moving all night long. She seemed to have that tambourine glued to her hand and would help out on drums when she felt that extra tom or cymbal necessary. It is unfair to describe Little Dragon as an electronica group: they hit just about every sub-genre that title understates. Trip-hop, neo-soul, Kraut-rock – it’s all there. Some of the dance jams did get a bit long-winded, but allowed them time to redefine the meaning of "trance." Musically, the band is as tight as can be. Erik Boden is definitely one of the most imaginative and resourceful drummers I’ve heard recently. Keyboardist and programmer Håkan Wirenstrand provides the more interesting leads while Fredrick Källgren keeps things steady on the low end with both the four string and keys. Midset favorite was "Feathers" off of 2009’s Machine Dreams, but it was the closer "Twice" off their eponymous 2007 debut that was the standout and a perfect end to the festival.

(Apparently I missed a great opening set by Billy Goat. Read what Gaper’s Block had to say about it here.)

In the world of clichés, “all good things must come to an end” is about as generic as they come, albeit with a ring of truth. So ends another year of Tomorrow Never Knows and here’s hoping I’m not warding off death for the next one. Until then, keep your ears to the future.

Also check out:
TNK 2011: Pet Lions, Generationals, Magic Kids at Schubas
TNK 2011: Lia Ices, Generationals, Frankie Rose and the Outs at Lincoln Hall

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