Tuesday February 7 there were a lot of excited folks of all ages at the Vera Project to catch first and foremost Lemolo, and then Brooklyn’s Ava Luna, and Twin Sister finished the night. (Full disclosure, I had to boogie before I could catch Twin Sister, much to my chagrin. Hence their absence from this review.) What I witnessed was a night of haunting pop and neo-soul, and the audience was filled with people craning their heads and standing on their toes to see and hear all of it.
First a note on the Vera Project: it’s been a while since I’ve seen a show there, and let me tell you, the sound was just outstanding. So often the vocals are lost in the seemingly universal goal to drown the audience in bass. Not at Vera. The night’s music was balanced, with each part discernible, and clean. Best sound I’ve heard in a while. It was like well-mastered live albums.
This was my first encounter with Lemolo. I know, I know, I’m late on them. You of course, hip reader, already know this.
After their first song, these are the words I scribbled excitedly: shockingly good. When Megan and Kendra began to perform, everyone in Vera, who knew better, got as close as possible. Megan told us that she was a bit under the weather, that her voice wasn’t at its best. She said, â€œmaybe raspy is sexy if it’s on-key.â€ Whatever to that. Her voice has control, fragility, and when she goes loud it’s reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane. For two people it’s a really full sound.
At the changes in the songs Megan and Kendra look at each other and communicate with a shorthand that’s all eye contact and head nods. It’s clear that they love playing music together. They have that telepathy that’s only exists between simpatico musicians, and what they do with it is lovely. Lemolo let us know that their upcoming album is back from the mastering company. This is great news. If they accurately captured what they do on stage in the studio, this will be one of 2011’s great Seattle albums.
Next up was Ava Luna. I’m going to call what they do neo-soul, or indie R&B. It’s a lot of people on stage, and there is a lot of doo-wop back-up singing. (I think everyone in the band can sing.) The son of a soul DJ, their lead singer Charles Hernandez sounds like Curtis Mayfield, or Prince. The instrumentation is fairly sparse in the arrangements. Instead, they rely on the harmonies of the back-up singers to fill in the empty space. It’s like using voices to cover parts that a synth would cover in other acts. Lots of syncopated beats, lots of big vocal chords, and in-between the bass notes hit like jabs.
On their recordings there is a lot of mid range, but live they sound more bare-bones. The emphasis is voice and drums. I like these things. Their frequent time signature and tempo changes guarantee that nobody can dance to their songs, but this is Seattle. That’s never an issue. This was their first time in town. They should come back. Show me a city that doesn’t crave soul music, and I’ll show you a city in ruin.