Friday, March 13, 2009

Live + Album: Luise Pop

One thing about getting out of New York for a few days is that you also get out of the New York music scene for a few days and stumble upon bands like Austrian-natives Luise Pop. They've just released their debut album this week and I was lucky enough to, completely by accident, stumble upon their release show.

When: 3/12
Where: Vienna, Austria

When I walked into the Luise Pop show, hosted by Vienna's one real alternative venue, das Fluc, I had no idea what to expect. I definitely didn't expect a three-person choir dressed in funny nautical costumes at the back of the stage. My first thought was to cry "gimmick!" but I figured, at least it's a gimmick I haven't seen before. And when I gave the band a chance, they showed it was no gimmick at all - the mini-choir fleshed out the music indispensably and added a lot to the show.

The band, true to its name, plays indie pop, most of it very danceable (though of course, this show was in Austria so the audience staunchly refused to do more than a slight head-bob). Though not particularly cutting edge, the band boasts consistently irresistible melodies and brilliant arrangements. It's in this, the exceptional quality of their songwriting, that the band stands out from the pack.

Unfortunately, a lot of the parts were pre-recorded, which made the band less fun to watch - of course, a big part of concerts is seeing how a band makes their music, and that was lamentably missing here.

Photo by Andrea Salzmann (from
Luise Pop (photo by Andrea Salzmann)

Despite that, though, the band was still massively fun to watch! The entire group of them seemed to be a little bewildered and bashful, especially the choir in their odd garb. Frontwoman Lisa Berger seemed a bit shy too, but everyone threw their all into the show. They seemed surprised but very pleased to be on stage in front of a fair-sized crowd and they definitely made the most of the opportunity, striking a lovely balance between humility and confidence. From silly choreographed dance moves from the choir (delivered with not a little self-consciousness) to all-out rock moments from guitarist and co-vocalist Vera Kropf, the show just made me smile.

The Car The Ship The Train
Album: The Car The Ship The Train
Asinella Records, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Of course, at the show, I grabbed a copy of the band's brand new release and debut LP, The Car The Ship The Train. Once again, the band's exceptional gift for writing melodies and arranging songs is clear. Using a broad palette of sounds, the band manages to make each song distinct without making the album seem scattered.

The indie-rock sincerity of Berger and Kropf's lyrics, driven home with a just-a-tad-shy delivery, is unquestionably endearing - these aren't polished pros, they are just some really nice people singing some songs! This makes some tracks ("Run Away" is a prime example) fall a little flat, but for the most part, it's effectively engaging and unlike many indie pop bands who aim for the same thing, it doesn't seem at all contrived.

Album highlights include the quietly beautiful "Pirate Isle," anthemic dance-punk "Feminist Terrorists" and "At The Gas Station," which has some the album's most interesting sounds and rhythms. As the record wears on, the songs gradually grow in depth and maturity, slowing down ever so slightly from the exuberant beginning and becoming more introspective. The album title is drawn from the lyrics of "Detour," a short track that brings together the album's theme of youthful transience in one rousing chorus.

The only really unsatisfying moment of the album is the closing song, which was also the closing song (pre-encore) at the live show. Both live and on the record, I was disappointed when the final 30 seconds of building triumph just abruptly ended instead of taking the step I anticipated - both times, I waited for the band to burst out into an ear-shattering closing chorus, and both times, all I got was a single orchestral hit and silence.

But missed opportunities aside, the album is ultimately solid and accomplished. It's a great listen, and like the live show, bound to make you crack a smile.

Luise Pop on MySpace

Preview and buy the album here. (The tracks are in a different order from on the physical CD.)

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