Halloween, Alaska: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

"Songs for California are catching up with you" whispered Halloween, Alaska vocalist James Diers at Iota last night, sending another aching melody into another eddy of keyboards, moody guitar lines and pulsing electronic drums. And while the Arlington venue hardly provides the perfect milieu for a band that relies on writerly lyrics fitted carefully into whooshing, distended song structures, the oddball Minneapolis quartet took the bar chatter in stride, playing an appropriately idiosyncratic set.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Of course, pretty much everything about Halloween, Alaska is irregular: an on-again, off-again outfit that has released three albums since 2002, the musical drive comes from Diers and irrepressible drummer James King (whose main gig is with spurious jazzers the Bad Plus), strongly evoking the out-of-time trance pop of the Blue Nile.

Last night's 45-minute set -- the group's first D.C. area show -- drew mainly from the new "Champagne Downtown," which splits the difference between thrumming cocktail hour soundtrack and far left-field radio pop.

"The Ends," "Hot Pink" and the album's title track bubbled up on Diers' droplets of keyboard melody and King's often-stunning work on a combination electric-conventional drum kit. And just when the songs seemed poised to leap into a grand, sappy chorus, they pulled back, turned left or imploded altogether.

That leaves the listener in an odd middle ground, wanting more without really knowing why. And even if that's a ruse, it's one very few other bands are currently pulling off. Which has to count for something, right?


By J. Freedom du Lac |  May 13, 2009; 3:43 PM ET Live Last Night
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