Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Show review: Memoryhouse, Tiny Fireflies at Schubas, 2/28

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: Shannon Aliza)
“Let’s all go to sleep now,” Memoryhouse singer Denise Nouvion half-joked after playing one of their songs. I say half-joked because well, I mean, Memoryhouse is generally tagged "dream pop." I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on The Years EP before I fell asleep at night. It's music that is lulling, innocuous and simply comfortable to listen to. Likewise, in the live setting, the audience is cool to react after songs, after being nearly mesmerized by Nouvion’s dreamy vocals. But the calm also brought to mind Robert Loerzel’s interpretation of crowd response to Low at Lincoln Hall last year, of having a respect for the performers and the assumption that everyone in the room is intent on catching every nuance performed. This of course isn’t true for everyone. I did notice some people filter out, perhaps just towards the back of the intimate room or out to the bar, but it does show signs of a crowd highly intrigued to a band early in their career.

Memoryhouse’s stop in Chicago was the first on the new tour and marked the release of their debut LP The Slideshow Effect out on Sub Pop. Aptly, a series of grainy projections played in the background throughout, of mountains, landscapes, waves crashing, people swimming. The whimsy started early with "Walk With Me," the duo of singer/keyboardist Nouvion and guitarist Evan Abeele looking entirely natural and comfortable with each other, doubly noted by their in-between song banter. Memoryhouse was originally just the two of them, but there was a drummer as well last night, who played subtly but dynamically, particularly in regard to the cymbals. Throughout the set, Nouvion’s vocals were spot on, distinctly feminine but comfortable in the lower ranges of her voice. She hits the higher notes occasionally, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she wasn’t holding back just a tad too much.

Despite having a lower decibel and tempo level for most of the set, lead single "The Kids Were Wrong" certainly picked up the pace, even if followed by a timid "thank you" from Nouvion. The set was definitely tight throughout, save for a few missteps towards the end. Nouvion couldn’t quite remember certain opening chords to a song. After about a minute of messing around, she finally got it and Abeele knocked out the iconic lead guitar to My Bloody Valentine’s "When You Sleep." Some might say it's sacrilege to cover the song, but their hazy rendition added a new perspective to an already cloudy original. Closing out the set was their undoubtedly most well known song, "Lately," originally sampling Jon Brion’s "Phone Call" from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack, but Tuesday stripped back to Abeele’s fingerpicking guitar, Nouvion’s lone vocals and the drummer moving from behind the kit to the keys. This song will never cease to be beautiful, but I hate to say that the timing got off between Abeele and the keyboardist at the end. Nevertheless they made up for it with a dreamy and impromptu encore of the Police’s "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."

Opening up the show was Tiny Fireflies, featuring Chicago’s Kristine Capua on synth and vocals, and Lisle Mitnik on guitar, with Brian--who apparently flew in from California the day before--helping out on bass. They were a very appropriate opener for Memoryhouse, and despite most of the Schubas crowd sitting on the chairs at the side of the venue, they played fluidly through a set of Cure meets Twin Sister style dream pop, the deceitfully melancholic "Your Love" contrasting with the deceitfully upbeat "So Sad to Say Goodbye." Unfortunately (and maybe an omen for Memoryhouse), the closing track "We Made a Pact" had a misstep when Capua couldn’t sync the first notes of the keyboard to the drum track right away. They’re continuing on with Memoryhouse throughout the Midwest, and hopefully both acts can work out the few kinks that blemished the opening night.

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