The seminal Swedish indie pop-rock kings Peter Bjorn and John returned to NYC in support of their seventh LP Breakin’ Point after a nearly five-year absence from the scene. The trio of vocalist and guitarist Peter Morén, bassist Björn Yttling, and drummer John Eriksson have certainly had their share of change over the nearly 20 years of playing together. Their early stuff was heady and experimental, but over their first few years, they began to find their catchier pop appeal. Of course, they made a big splash on the international indie scene with their 2006 Writer’s Block album that spawned so many ridiculously catchy songs it was hard to get any of them out of your head for years. They went in a darker, moodier direction for the next few years, but the boys came back strong on their last insanely catchy disc Gimmie Some released way back in the age of 2011. Finally continuing on that course, their new disc embraces the pop-heavy side of their persona with strong ties to their prototypes in 70’s/80’s artists from ABBA to The Cars.
The show opened up with POP ETC, a Brooklyn band you may recognize from several years ago when they called themselves The Morning Benders, having only changed the name several years back due to worry that the name may be considered homophobic. The band’s trio consisting of brothers Chris and Jon Chu as well as Julian Harmon is definitely enticing, and you’ll be happy to hear they have same harmony-heavy sound those might remember from their previous group, only with a synthier pop edge that goes without saying considering the new name. Their recent second album as a new outfit called Souvenir is totally worth embracing for all of its warm and glowing indie-pop glory.
The artsy dreampop project called Sound of Ceres came out next to blow everyone’s mind with some extremely heady and visually stunning celestial performance art. The venture is the spacey brainchild of the sister/brother team of Karen and Ryan Hover from Fort Collins, Colorado (a place where the space electronica runs wild and free), and whose recent debut LP Nostalgia for Infinity even got some major collabs from members of bands like The Drums and the Apples in Stereo. Musically, as you could probably tell by the name, some very ethereal and ambient currents run throughout, mostly playing off of Karen’s otherworldly harmonies and compacted by her performance art styled movements on stage. There are even some more modern progressive rock complexities and climaxes with the instrumentation as well, but together there is a scope of vision that is rarely reached with such sweeping ambition. On top of that, they also supplied a massive lightshow projected onto the stage by an onsite lighting crew crouched down in front of them as they played to give it that real early Pink Floyd-flavored array of richly spaced-out visual and audio stimuli. They managed to turn out a truly awe-inspiring set, and I look forward to getting tripped out with them again soon.
Peter Bjorn and John’s set was as splendidly-spirited as I had hoped. Most of the songs they played were, of course, from the new album, and some played better than others. There were some songs that sounded as they were just really getting the groove of, but considering their albescence, I’d think they’d deserve to be a tad rusty. Overall, I’m warming up to the new album, even though I initially thought it was more pop than I’d care for, but it’s clearly the direction they were meant to go. The album’s extra-clean and danceable polish was clearly helped along by the contribution of some of the industry’s hottest producers like Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence and the Machine, The Rapture, Cee Lo Green, etc.), Emile Haynie (Father John Misty, Eminem, Lady Gaga, etc.), and Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Beck, Pink, Tegan and Sara, Sia, etc.).
Still, the classics were where Peter really got super-excitable, as he randomly burst into high jumps and even jumped down into the crowd for a fun-time singalong between his singing gigs. They stuck with the better-known sections of their catalog as well, skipping their first couple LPs and getting right into their pop-heavy era with 2006’s Writer’s Block on classics like “Amsterdam,” “Up Against the Wall,” and “Young Folks” (with their keyboardist singing Victoria Bergsman’s part), along with the inclusion of “It Don’t Move Me” from 2009’s Living Thing, and a whole lot from their last LP like “Dig a Little Deeper,” “Eyes,” and of course the insanely catchy song, “Second Chance.” It was all pop at its best, and these guys continue to prove that it isn’t only a job for the young folks, but is clearly a passion for the old folk artists and the dreamers, as well.
Article: Dean Keim