Last Night: Loney, Dear at Bottom of the Hill
May 15, 2009
Bottom of the Hill
Better Than: Pretending that you actually like to play beer pong.
It happens. Music that seems young and raw initially sounds like adult contemporary soft rock the more you hear it. Furthermore, you start thinking that it would be nice to actually sit down at a show. There was no sitting at Bottom of the Hill last night--this was a rock venue, people--but the evening was not an edgy one. Gone were the tight black pants, the handkerchiefs, the greasy skin, the stern, slouched postures that usually haunt the room. The crowd seemed a lot more mainstream than the typical Bottom of the Hill demographic, and the headliner, Loney, Dear, seemed the very embodiment of, shall we call it, mature rock.
Swedish singer-songwriter Emil Svanangen, who performs as Loney, Dear, has previously toured as support for such slowcore titans as Low and Andrew Bird. He's a headliner now, having released Dear John on Polyvinyl Records earlier this year. It's an album of checked angst in league with the wintry heartbreak of Mount Eerie and the synthesized rejection balm of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.
Bottom of the Hill is a weird place to see such a low-energy performer. With its black-box atmosphere, this is the kind of venue where you find yourself moshing at the age of 26 as Bob Mould surfs into the crowd (true story). It's a place where eternal youth and liver damage can really boogie. Not last night though, with so much soft rock on the bill.
Opening act Audio Out Send started the night with mellow, sentimental songs that had understated melodies. I would have loved to have watched them at Edinburgh Castle while playing darts. With derivative 90's alternative sound, the group was neither terribly captivating nor terribly boring.
Headlights, a dancey shoegazy band that share the Polyvinyl label with Loney, Dear, took the stage second with an announcement from the lead singer: "You are in for an indie rock show." Their set reminded me of both the Cranberries and Stars, though not quite so punchy.
By the time Loney, Dear went on, Bottom of the Hill had gotten slightly more crowded. On stage, Svanangen sounded sad, but not desperate. As he played "Everything Turns To You," the song sounded pleading, exuberant, and melancholy all at once. The brisk beat in "Airport Surroundings" almost picked up its understated melody, with Svanangen singing in a falsetto reminiscent of Sigur Ros. When he got to "I Love You (In With the Arms)" the set got to the core of sadcore, with acoustic strumming and unobtrusive keyboard accompaniment that got a little achy. Svanangen finished the set with "Sinister In a State of Hope," a song that crescendoed in hopeful waves. In his maturity, Loney Dear nourished preciousness without being precious about it.
Personal Bias: I am a sadcore enthusiast.
Random Detail: I have never seen so many pairs of blue jeans at Bottom of the Hill.
By the way: Svanangen recorded Dear John at his parents' house.