Thursday, 4 March 2010

LIVE REVIEW: Harper Blynn @ The Mercury Lounge, NYC

In the latest episode of monthly gushing over New York City's very own Harper Blynn, I recently caught the band live with celeb magnet-tastic, One Tree Hill-associated band Wakey! Wakey! here at the Mercury Lounge. 


Any regular readers will be aware that H-T-A ears were first pricked by the vocal harmonies of these guys last year, at a time when they were more a duo known as Pete & J. Nothing has been lost with the addition of bassist Whynot Jansveld and multi-skilled drummer Sarab Singh, as the songs of the aforementioned fellas are now rounded out in the more fully formed Harper Blynn sound.

For the most part, this is a great development. Songs like Loneliest Generation and This Is It benefit from the expanded sound, flourishing from their acoustic roots into rocking pop gems. Another nod to the compelling vocals and memorable choruses at this point, which lie at the heart of the band's appeal. Elsewhere, the opposite effect detracts slightly from the more sublime charms of a beautiful song like All The Noise - one of my favourites from the recent album - which is much better suited to the acoustic-friendly intimacy of Rockwood Music Hall than the more lumbering Mercury Lounge space. It's a minor quibble, as audiences in the city regularly have a chance to catch either type of set according to their preference, yet it springs to mind once or twice during the set. 

One of the main factors that earmarks Harper Blynn for break out success in 2010 is their undeniably tight, symbiotic playing. As amusing bantering between songs as they are in sync whilst banging out the (should be) hits, each member balances individual talent with an impeccable understanding of the sonic requirements of those alongside them. It adds to the sound and look of the band immeasurably, impressing those around me with each passing mean feat in a potentially haughty city crowd. 

MP3: Harper Blynn - 25 Years
Taken from the debut album Loneliest Generation, out now digitally

A new song - possibly 'Every Impulse You Have' or 'Shut Down' or both - adds some variation without breaking much new ground midway through the set, before returning to tried and trusted tunes afterwards. Of these, set closer 25 Years is an obvious highlight, with its quarter century malaise wrapped up in sweet melodies and a choral tone that belies the uncertain subject matter. One of many such songs in Harper Blynn's arsenal, it showcases exactly why the quartet receive a rapturous farewell for their support slot. 

Main band Wakey! Wakey!, whose CD release is this evening, then do their thing well yet never quite match the style and substance of their friends. With sometimes more than twice as many musicians onstage, the songs become cluttered and often fare better when lead singer Mike Grubbs, resplendent in a proudly worn Iron Maiden t-shirt, is left to his own devices. Knocking out heartfelt life tunes with only his voice and keys, this seems to bring out the real songwriting skill, proving the less is more maxim in this particular case. 

So to this (undeniably biased) reviewer, Harper Blynn own the night and, with any justice, will own the year as their lush harmonies seep into the minds of more and more audiences here and beyond. With a physical album release of Loneliest Generation due in May, the momentum will be there and H-T-A will have at least one more reason to cover the band once again. 

Always a pleasure, never a chore.

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