Ladies of the World Unite!
Playing in her native New Jersey, Nicole Atkins emerged from the shadows as a new kind of American sweetheart, blending elements of warm country women of the past with ’50s Supremes shoo-bops and pop melodies for a contemporary indie crowd.
Atkins was a warm and Southern-tinged brand of stateside sass in comparison to Emily Haines, the lame jumper-clad Canadian sparkplug of Metric. Admirers and revelers of all genders and sexual orientations fixated on the riveting Haines, who electrified the more than laid-back afternoon.
Aussie solo act Sia — she of the billowing anthem “Breathe Me,” currently ringing in HD across television screens nationwide in NBC’s Olympic promos — took a bit of a political stance, dressing her band members in T-shirts reading “VOTE.” We could only assume they were talking about our election. Her take on contemporary soul was at times quite fun, at others low-key and ambient.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
Contemporary and classic incarnations of psychedelia were also near the top of the bill at APW on Saturday. Animal Collective now seems to be a permanent three-piece by now, but nothing stopped them from being the loudest band at Liberty State Park all weekend. If it was easy for you to just tune in and drop out, their off-kilter organic techno was truly transformative.
Frontman Avey Tare expressed his thankfulness to be close to home for the first time in a while, but it couldn’t have been more clear that Animal Collective’s experimentation is out of this world. Their ability to fluctuate between tight tribal rhythms and drive through transitions as individuals is mind-boggling, whether you appreciate their art or not. They always know how to kick it out at the end, spending the last half of their set with Panda Bear’s “Comfy in Nautica” into Strawberry Jam anthem “Fireworks” and ending with the enrapturing unreleased track “Brother Sport,” not heard by New Yorkers since its debut at South Street Seaport last summer.
The Black Angels were a great band responsible for bringing those on the psych-bend back to earth with their Black Sabbath-esque electric guitar tones suited for a blacklit 1970’s basement. Funky smells started coming to the surface as a result of such a “chill” presence, and the Austin, Texas outfit was slow and smoldering, the vocals of lead singer Alex Maas almost visibly coming out in waves as they blared through songs from their latest, Directions to See a Ghost.
Brothers Bonding at the Blue Comet Stage
The main stage on Saturday turned into somewhat of a family affair with bands prominently featuring sets of brothers. First up: the Followills, aka Kings of Leon. On a propulsive take on “Crawl,” from their forthcoming LP, Only By the Night, Caleb Followill sounded more clear and confident than ever, later letting his voice bring new life to even the lowest-key Southern dirt-road selections from his band’s debut, Youth and Young Manhood. During the three spare opportunities where new songs were played, the quartet’s energy completely soared beyond anything seen before. Love them, loathe them, or stare at them awestruck for fitting into those tiny pants, Kings of Leon continue to ascend into American rock’s royal family.
As for Radiohead, when it comes to family, Colin and Jonny Greenwood’s brotherhood is confirmed based on looks alone. But when it comes to completing the entire sound and aura of their band, it’s evident Jonny has got to be from another planet. He can rip on electric guitar like a teenager in a garage, then tinker with a xylophone to bring lightness to the dark, or pound hard enough on percussion to shake you in your sleep. It’s amazing to witness firsthand, his versatility confirming his role as Radiohead’s Lucious Fox to Thom Yorke’s Dark Knight. Greenwood’s contributions to a collective set of perfection — one that definitely surpassed Friday’s show — were something to behold, all hype aside.
Some of the second night’s best moments had to have been reveling in red and blue flouresence in front of Lady Liberty herself during “The National Anthem,” the swarming and unpredictable spiral that grew out of “Kid A,” Yorke awakening the angels somewhere while singing “Nude,” a sold-out crowd awashed in complete and total silence during “Exit Music (For a Film),” and a one-two punch finale of soaring alt-rock transitioning into robotic dance rhythms found in “Planet Telex” and “Idioteque.”