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El Perro Del Mar, Lykke Li Swoon NYC Fans

In Lykke Li's debut NYC appearance, the buzzing Scandinavians treat a sold out crowd to vastly polarized yet all-around rapturous tunes.

Like El Perro Del Mar’s adventurous, boisterous kid sister, Lykke Li emerged from the shadows at the dimly lit, swanky Joe’s Pub last night (May 7) in front of well-dressed revelers waiting for the mounting buzz to be justified. And with a downtrot and hippy-dippy tune ringing in their ears from opener Anna Ternheim’s set, fans were met with Lykke Li’s rambunctious set of oddly worldly, stripped down bangers.

Her three-piece band slammed drums, slid up and down bass and acoustic guitar strings, and hammered away at a grand piano as the blond wiggle-worm, dressed in a black gown with numerous gold chains dangling around her neck, jammed in a kinetic mess of movement, thrusting her hands ceiling-high, spinning in circles while she spouted her soulful croon. But before you knew it, the short set, punctuated by the snappy-as-ever “Little Bit” and the propulsive “Breaking It Up,” was over. And soon, the crowd — apparently fulfilled with her impressive performance — thinned out; not a smart move (shaking head side to side, eyes closed-shut).

Like a refined older sibling, more conservatively dressed in a black blouse and slacks, El Perro Del Mar, a.k.a. Sarah Assbring, solemnly took the stage solo around 11:15 P.M., and strummed out “Party” and “Dog,” both off her self-titled sophomore set, before bringing up her band, which at times fleshed out to five members. The group strutted through the harmonious “I Can’t Talk About It” before diving into her new record, From the Valley to the Stars.

Contained Motown- and Girl Group-rooted tracks like the swaying, piano-choogling “You Can’t Steal a Gift,” and the bouncing backbeat of “Somebody’s Baby” — notably the latter — were kicked up a notch by the overtly in-sync live band. Sparse, enchanting “Don’t Despair,” and its bevy of Sunday-mass-on-Ambien keys, provided an apt, plodding counter weight, while “How Did We Forget?” a swinging-in-the-ether groover, logged as the set highlight; “It’s easy babe, to make it hard,” Assbring whispered, followed by a soft hush of “eeeaaaasssssyyyyyyyyy.”

To cap it off, Lykke Li emerged, and the two traded blasting vocals on Wendy Rene’s lamenting oldie “After Laughter (Comes Tears),” Lykke Li going for gold, hitting high notes and embodying the tune’s sorrow in both vocal influx and bodily movements, trotting like an attention-starved child privy to its in-the-now talent. Assbring, however, was calm and collected, moving like the experienced nightingale she is, seemingly aware that even though some chairs now rocked empty, likely swaying in approval of Lykke Li’s much-anticipated New York debut, she has already earned her keep, gracefully climbing from the ‘Valley’ to the ‘Stars.’

El Perro Del Mar / Photo by William Goodman

El Perro Del Mar / Photo by William Goodman