Friday, November 21, 2008

Live: Mahogany + Nouvellas

I know, I know, I missed the Secret History at their own CD release party! But I'll try to get the EP and write it up, I was just too exhausted to stay for more. I caught both opening bands though.

Nouvellas - It took me a minute to figure out exactly why I hated this band so much. They imitate the sounds of 60's R&B music, with a girl group spin and occasionally a touch of funk, and they imitate it with technical precision. Then why did I spend the entire set grimacing so bad I may have dislocated a vertebra? Because, though playing "soul" music, this band has no soul. There's just no way this music came from the heart. In fact, this could easily have been a "produced" band, put together by a corporate asshole out to make a buck. I doubt that's actually the case, but that's the level of insincerity we're talking about. And relatedly, two 20-year-old white hipster girls pretending to be the Supremes should be nothing but offensive to everyone.

Mahogany - As Mahogany's hundreds of die-hard fans can tell you, this band's reputation was secured long ago. They are known for their sometimes-electronic, heavily-instrumented dream pop, combining beautiful melodies with gorgeously lush soundscapes.

But last time I heard them play, this past spring, I had reason to believe they'd lost their magic touch. The band was unable to use their laptop, which forced them to play a set of their newer, computer-free material. Most troubling wasn't any weakness in playing, but rather that most of the new songs were, well, not good. Particular due to unbearably trite melodies, the set seemed to represent a startling drop in quality from the band's earlier work.

Mahogany (picture from

So it was with great skepticism that I attended last night's show. And much to my surprise, I was absolutely blown away. Whether they simply reworked the material I'd heard last spring or presented an entirely different set of songs, the show was nothing less than stunning. Some of the new material, including the breathtaking second song (I don't know the name) might rival even the best of their earlier work.

Always primarily the project of Andrew Prinz, Mahogany has benefited not only from his compositional talent but also from his ability to surround himself with excellent musicians. Sharing the front of the stage with him these days is guitarist/vocalist Ana Breton, and though she's only been a member of the group for a fraction of its history, she more than pulls her weight with superb guitar work and lovely (though at this show, lamentably too quiet) vocals. Drummer Odell Nails is a gifted percussionist and better yet, he consistently looks like there is nothing on earth he would rather be doing than playing drums for Mahogany. I did a double-take when I noticed that James Minor of the goth-ish band Blacklist has taken over on bass, but it turns out he is a great fit as well. The whole band is lovely on stage - engaging, focused, passionate and fun to watch.

Kids, Mahogany is back!

1 comment:

punkhermit said...

awesome review. wish i had been there to witness it.