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Archive for the ‘Overcoats’ Category

[ATTENDED: January 25, 2018] Tennis

I had only ever heard of Tennis once or twice in passing on NPR.  I noted them as a poppy, synthy band whose songs were catchy.

I wasn’t sure how much I would like their main set, and I was prepared to head home early if I didn’t enjoy it. But Tennis proved to be delightfully sweet and a perfect match for Overcoats (they clearly mutually respect each other).

Tennis are the creation of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley.  They play sweet synthy pop songs. Because of the way they were dressed I think I heard a lot more disco overtone than was actually there.  There’s an 80s synth pop sound throughout their songs, but I think the heavy basslines brought a real disco swagger.  And the guitar was always interesting.

And their drumset lit up as well! (Check out how they put their logo on the drum head).  I really liked their merch, I thought it was very simple but very cool. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 25, 2018] Overcoats

This was my first concert of 2018 (March and April are pretty solidly booked).  I really enjoyed Overcoats’ Tiny Desk Concert and I thought it would be a real treat to see them live.  Their music is dancey, but it’s all about their voices.  It was their harmonies and their attitude of friendship and warmth that really sold me.

They were the opening act for the band Tennis, whom I’d only heard of in passing.  It was certainly odd to go to a show for the opener and not really know the headliner.  The show had just sold out in Brooklyn, but there was a lot of free space in Union Transfer (and yet people still insisted on pushing and shoving–yup I’m old).

Overcoats have one album out–Young.  All of their songs were from that album except for one new one called “I Don’t Believe in Us.”

Their drummer Joao Gonzalez came out first (“ladies, he’s available and he likes the Eagles,” was one of several Philly references).  Then Hana came out and checked her guitar as JJ came out and checked her synth box thingy.  They gave each other a very long deep hug and then Joao begin playing some synth sounds on the sampler.  I was glad to see that they still had the same drummer as on their Tiny Desk Concert. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OVERCOATS-Young (2017).

Overcoats is the project of two women: Hana Elion (left on the album cover) and JJ Mitchell.  The focus of their music is, without question, their dynamic voices.  They harmonize beautifully with each other.  Often times you can’t tell who is singing what.  And yet, they also have lovely voices individually.

The music on this record is very minimal.  Some songs are based solely around a low keyboard note and simple percussion.

What’s most interesting about the duo is that their music veers between quiet, introspective songs and some serious dance music.  Their sound is at times uncomfortably poppy for me.  And yet after seeing them on a Tiny Desk Concert I have embraced them and let my pop hair down.

The disc opens with the short (less than 2 minute) “Father” which features one vocal and a low drone underneath.  For the second verse, their voices are multiplied and echoed.  It’s beautiful and a little unsettling.

But it’s “Smaller Than My Mother” in which the more dancey aspects first show up.  Over a thumping bass, their voices are manipulated in a strange way to create a staccato melody.  Musically the song is again, a little unsettling, but after a verse or two, some full-on synths come in to take over the manipulated voices as the prime melody and the two main vocals power through in close, delightful harmony.  The song isn’t exactly catchy, but it is quite entrancing.

“23” begins quietly, with just one vocal line.  For the second verse, the harmonies kick in and the song soars. But again, the music behind them is pretty minimal–droney synths a simple beat and sprinkling of keyboard notes.

“Leave the Light On” takes what they’ve done to a new level of complexity.  It showcases not only their voices (close and distant harmonies) but also their danciest sensibilities.  Their voices are looped and modulated, but they also sing quite rhythmically.  The song also has more music than the others, with some loud synthy patterns and a real dance feel.

“Hold Me Close” is a powerful pretty ballad.  The melody is followed on a piano with these buzzy electronic sounds that propel the song forward.  But the music mostly drifts away because it’s all about their voices.

The back half of the album is a lot more mellow.  “The Fog” manipulates their voices more as a woozy, foggy synth plays throughout the song while “Walk On” is just a pretty, understated song.  “Little Memory” is all about their harmonies as is “Siren” although with a bit more oomph.

“Nighttime Memory” seems like it will continue in that quieter vein, but the chorus comes in with a kind of sinister droning keyboard and the two singers singing a tight harmony of “When the darkness comes, wheh wheh when…”

“Mother” bookends the disc.  The way the two hum in harmony is really warm and inviting, a comforting end to this sometimes unsettling but always beautiful disc.

[READ: March, 21, 2016] “The Elephant”

At the time, I had been reading a number of stories set in the Middle East and India that seemed to be full of futility.  It is quite dispiriting,

This story begins at Mr Ganesh Pai’s store.  Mrs. Engineer had come in person to shop there.  She bought an expensive TV table and said she would pay the balance of the item once it was delivered safely.  Mr Pai notes, “she’s a stingy old cunt.”  This makes his assistant laugh, but there is no laughing in this store.  Rather, he must tell Chenayya that it is his delivery to make.

Chenayya is a coolie–a delivery boy–for this mega store.  The store is doing well, there are many deliveries a day.  But the deliverers get paid poorly and have to give a portion of their to Pai.  Chenayya begins his delivery on the bicycle. Up the big hill.   He works hard, even making sure the table doesn’t wobble (he carried a big saw with him) but she gives him only 3 rupees as a tip.  He begs for six but she tells him to get away.

Many of the other delivery men spend their money on alcohol, but not Chenayya.  He knows the cost isn’t worth t.  He does buy a lottery ticket, though.   He often thinks about stealing the money on a delivery and taking off–maybe someday. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OVERCOATS-Tiny Desk Concert #608 (March 27, 2017).

Overcoats is Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell.  They sing beautiful duets–sometimes in harmony, sometimes in unison–but always perfectly together.  And they seem to have an incredible affection for each other–notice the way they hug each other at the end of the show.

I was intrigued by the blurb that says:

Behind those rich voices lies a spare electronic backdrop that feels spacious and refreshing. Not long ago, these songs would likely be backed by a nylon-stringed guitar, but their healthy energy feels more urgent with an underpinning drone and Joao Gonzalez’s drumming.

And it’s true.  As the songs progress, you do rather expect to hear more folk sounds, but instead the songs are almost dancey, certainly soulful.  At times they are dancey, as the duo do some really fun dances too.

“23” opens with Elion’s guitar and slightly higher voice.  She and Mitchell switch off lead vocals until Mitchell pays some keyboards which broadens the sound…slightly.  As the song nears its end Mitchell puts some synths on a loop, the women sing a round of Ahhs until a great delicate moment at the and as Elion slides her hand up the neck of her guitar ringing out that chord higher and higher until the end.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people smile so much and be so happy about what they are doing and who they are with.

JJ introduces “Leave the Light On” by saying “Hana has a life long dream to do a Tiny Desk.  She’s actually retiring after this show.”  This song is much more dancey.  They both sing the line “leave the light on for myself when I come home” and then the Gonzalez samples it ( I assume) and loops it.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it’s quite infectious, especially as they dance wildly between verses, swinging their arms and smiling at each other.  They even put their arms around each other while they sing .

“Hold Me Close” is a pretty ballad that’s slower and more poignant.  And they do hold each other close as they sing.  When they sing the last few words to each other you can feel the love between them.  It’s really something.

I didn’t mention the fact that they are wearing identical white tunics, because no one else did. I don’t know if that’s how they dress on stage, but it really makes a visual statement.  I also can’t imagine them singing in a larger space than the Tiny Desk.  The performance is so intimate what would they do with a bigger stage?

[READ: January 25, 2017] “You Never Really Know”

This comic piece goes from funny to very funny to fairly insane in a matter of a few paragraphs.

The story begins with a strange misunderstanding.  The narrator saw a homeless man holding out a cup and begging for change. But as he got closer her realized the man was not homeless and that the cup was actually full of coffee!

Then he notes that his fiancée would probably step over a guy like that without a second thought.

He cites some other examples of how the world is full of surprises: The C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company could turn out the be the greatest basketball player. And, his mother, a nurse, could be speaking to that man’s fiancée behind his back.

You never know what’s going on.  Until you hire a lawyer. (more…)

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