On January 20th at the Mercury Lounge I got to check out Freelance Whales, a hot new act out of Queens and soon to be out on the Frenchkiss label. With a name that defies category (wouldn't Pod of Whales make more sense?), their sound further defies description. However, bands like Ra Ra Riot and Broken Social Scene do come to mind. If not for shared sounds for shared spirit. Freelance Whales melodic harmonizing and bold instrumentation is incredibly warm and fuzzy and daring and delicate. Primarily an acoustic act, the band produces textured music with powerful rhythms and a keen sense of melody. The orchestrating of banjos and guitars, harmoniums and laptops, tambourines and keyboards further illustrates the musical menagerie. If Doctor Parnassus and his imaginarium traveled with a house band, Freelance Whales would be it. There are no fewer than five people on stage at anytime and they are constantly swapping instruments making the experience feel more spontaneous and energized than calculated. But don't be fooled, these Whales know exactly what they're doing crafting soundscapes of sentimentality and memorable baroque-pop arrangements that will get under the skin of the most hardened hipsters. Judah Dadone leads the group chanting and is the groups' spiritual and vocal center. His high range perfectly complements the kaleidoscope. It's amazing to think all this once occupied the platforms of the NYC subway system, and sometimes still does, further adding to their myth and allure. But not to worry, these Whales are playing more traditional venues around town in anticipation of their debut release. They've opened for Mumford and Sons recently and will be headlining again at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in March. Swim with them as soon as you can.
Just hours before the Freelance Whales show at the Mercury Lounge, I was able to catch a free set by the Oklahoma City sextet The Uglysuit and their name too seems a misnomer. Though the longhair hides most their faces, the beautiful sounds are front and center. "As frontman Israel Hindman's soft voice soars over cascading guitars and keys, the band can jump from dream pop to Southern rock or Beach Boys-like psychedelia-in one song." I liked these guys a lot. The songs are at the same time wistful and wonderous. They've just released their debut on Touch and Go and will be swinging through NYC again soon. Try them on.