Rubik/Lights @ El Corazon, Seattle, WA 11.10.11
Sometimes you see a bill and scratch your head and go "Huh?" While there are times where tours are actually put together because of an artist's mutual respect for one another, they're just as often likely to be put together by management, lawyers, publishing companies or random bean counters in the record label offices. The latter seemed to be the case last night at El Corazon, with pop visionaries Rubik opening up for the mall-pop emo-lite of Lights.
Rubik is a Finnish quartet who write expansive pop songs that are built on enough major key sunshine to be immediately accessible/hummable, but put just the right amount of weird textural elements atop them (horn sections, vintage science movie bleeps and bloops) and unexpected hairpin turns in them to make them seem as if they're from another world.
They are experts at the art of challenging pop arrangements, taking simple melodies and fleshing them out into a vivid, kalaedoscopic sound. In the studio, their records explode with color, with singer Artturi Taira's reedy voice floating in the room alongside the listener. Live, it's one of those situations where you wish they were a band twice their size (which they generally play as back in their native Finland) and playing on a stage twice the size, filling the air with a flurry of live sounds. As a quartet, Rubik still sounds great, but with limitations. Singer Taira's voice is flawless and he is that rare performer that is intensely focused but joyously eccentric at the same time, effortlessly nailing his parts and holding nothing back. With his long hair thrashing about while fingerpicking the almost death metal-y bridge of "Storm In A Glass Of Water", it wouldn't be surprising to see Taira fronting a thrash band of some sort. The only issue with Rubik as a stripped down quartet (likely a result of travel costs for a bunch of Finnish fellows) is that the band seems more focused with performing "big picture" sounds and less concerned with those subtle nuances that make the band unique; it was almost confusing deciphering what was happening live on stage and what was coming from the laptop behind drummer Sampa Väätäinen's kit.
The club was packed to the gills with shrieking 17 year old girls when Toronto popster Lights came on stage. After seeing Rubik's challenging mix of organic and electronic sounds, it was a jarring shift to be whisked away from that fenceless world of sound and be tossed down on the floor of a teen girl's bedroom. While Lights had the audience easily wrapped up and seemed genuinely charming and multifaceted (playing guitar, piano, and the everpresent keytar), the sounds that were coming out of the speakers were monochromatic. Performance-wise, Lights truly shone the brightest on some of the softer piano ballads that showcase her vocal range, but the bulk of her material was that sort of electro-pop that some factory in Denmark sells by the pound these days. Take away the hair dye and the tattoos and the alt-guy backing band and you've got Ashlee Simpson for the Hot Topic set, writing 80's-ish pop songs for folks that weren't even alive in the 80's.
Random Notebook Dump #1: Is it necessary for every artist that utilizes electronic elements in their set to make some terrible flailing attempt at dubstep breakdowns now?
Random Notebook Dump #2: In the middle of Lights set, I looked over and saw a girl flipping through her digital camera to make some space to take shots of Lights' set. After going through what had to be at least 200 consecutive photos of herself making the same "OMG SURPRISED!" face, I think she decided they were all keepers and gave up.
- World Around You
- City & The Streets
- Solar Death March
- Suns Eeyes
- Laws of Gravity
- Storm In A Glass Of Water