On Ages and Ages’ newest album, Something to Ruin (stream it above), the Portland, Ore., band takes upbeat and inspiring choral pop to some dark places. Oh, you know, just the collapse of Western civilization, done in by consumerism and neglect. Their music retains its uplifting openheartedness, a modern-day gospel with a progressive spirit. Ages and Ages (above, performing “As It Is” for WFUV FM) bring their communal energy—shared vocals, thoughtful melodies and an abundance of handclaps—to Mercury Lounge on Thursday. The early show will kick off with Skyway Man (below, doing “We Both Have Nothing to Fear”), the creative effort of Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter James Wallace. He’ll be playing music from the recently released Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye (stream it below), an under-the-radar sci-fi folk epic recorded with Matthew E. White in his Spacebomb Studios. The combined bill will be rife with excellent songs, some unique sounds and plenty to contemplate: past, present and future. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
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Natalie Prass – Rough Trade NYC – February 6, 2015
Natalie Prass was nothing if not alluring at her sold-out Rough Trade NYC show on Friday night. Yes, there was that stylish, short white-and-black floral dress and her flirtatious banter, but the real sexiness was in Prass’s music: her mesmerizing songs, the subtle flavors of her voice, the bounce of the bass and drums, the come-hither grooviness of the electric piano and some steamy guitar. On her justifiably acclaimed self-titled debut full-length, Prass’s music is adorned with an orchestra and a production that display a mature, capable performer with a power and wisdom beyond her years. Live, the music is stripped down to its unmentionables and the Friday night crowd was entranced with the results.
Prass opened on the piano accompanied by her crackerjack band from the Spacebomb indie-soul stable, based in Richmond, Va., led by Trey Pollard on guitar. On songs like “My Baby Don’t Understand Me,” she was in complete control of the room, silences were truly silent, the typical Friday night chatter and bartender glass clanking seemed to disappear in the magic of the moment. After guiding the band through several groove-hooked numbers during which you could almost feel everyone in the room falling head over heels, Prass paused to joke about how she had been described as a Disney princess before grabbing the microphone for “It Is You.” Lots of musicians hop down into the crowd and lots of them try to get more people to dance. But midway through her Disney audition, Prass went one further, hopping down to the floor and grabbing a guy to slow dance with to her own song as the band kept vamping, the crowd, feeling the moment, swaying along.
A pair of covers at opposite ends of the spectrum aptly summed up Prass’s sound: Janet Jackson’s “Any Time Any Place” and Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You.” The former (“a dirty song”) came off as a mesmerizing slow jam with the band locked in on the heart of the groove, invoking the Valentine’s Day spirit a week early. For the Cline cover, the two ladies from Lady Lady (who played a terrific Nashville-esque opening set), joined Prass, the three of them trading verses and playfully harmonizing. The set arced perfectly to a close with two more of the new songs—Prass sitting on the edge of the stage, legs crossed singing “Reprise” and then the show-closing “hit,” “Why Don’t You Believe in Me?” which found a night-making funkiness and left many attendance with that I-think-I’m-in-love feeling. —A. Stein | @Neddyo