Before heading to The Basement Thursday night, The Spin popped in for a drink at the Villager in order to shake off the chill of the first truly cold night of the season. As a result, we missed Murfreesboro-residing experimental folksters German Error Message. We heard mixed reviews from acquaintances: One friend said it was "pretty good," another said he "would have liked it in high school," and still another said it was "terrible." No clear consensus then, obviously. Guess we'll have to investigate further, though we like what we heard at their Bandcamp page.
The Spin did, however, catch locals Lylas — who were celebrating the release of their 10-inch, Snow Day — and it seemed almost as if they turned Nashville into some chilly, alien clime with their slow-crawling, eerie folk tunes. With banjo, keys, double bass, fiddle, some delicate percussion, pedal steel and just a bit of guitar — the latter two provided by omnipresent local multi-instrumentalists Luke Schneider and Ryan Norris — Lylas seriously sounds like they should be scoring some wintry film about the Civil War or the Great Depression. Sure, it's not for everyone, but if you have the patience for dark and graceful folk music, it really is some lovely stuff.
We took a smoke break after Lylas and re-entered to find The Basement's main room suddenly packed with a crowd consisting mostly of youngish hipsters, though it was peppered here and there with unfamiliar-looking 30-somethings. Anyway, it was to the dreamy, dubby sounds of Brooklyn-based Young Magic — a coed three-piece with "roots in Australia and Indonesia," as their website tells us — that we found a spot near the bar. Young Magic's set featured a lot of samples, floor tom and other auxiliary percussion, tribal-sounding, wet vocals, a couple of prayer candles and a table full of blinking dials. There was a bit of unpleasant popping and cracking in there toward the front of the set, but that's the price you pay for using, like, six dozen cables. When we mentioned to a friend that it sounded to us like Yeasayer with no discernible lyrics, he responded with, "So, the Lion King score then." Funny, but definitely hipper than that — Young Magic owes at least a little something to Animal Collective. We enjoyed some of the tunes, and at one point we found ourselves suddenly hypnotized by vocalist/occasional guitarist Melati Malay's spooky eyes and wordless crooning. All three members of Young Magic were very striking-looking people, in fact, and that led us to realize that this was just the sort of music that ugly people could not get away with making.
Now, we've been pumping Youth Lagoon's debut, The Year of Hibernation, a little bit lately, and we can confidently say that if the phrase "Beach House-esque dream pop with Daniel Johnston's vocals" appeals to you, you'd probably dig it. Brains-behind-operation frontman Trevor Powers played keys, sang and cued programmed beats while accompanied only by a guitarist. Though Powers' vocals were drier and a touch more shrill in a live setting, he sang well in his fragile, tender, youthful way — the vocal melodies (along with the simple guitar licks) totally make these songs. And even though the sight of the dweeby kid next to us grinding against his side ponytail-sporting girlfriend did make The Spin's inner cynic think, "Ugh, hipster bullshit," the music itself deserves attention. As songs like "17" and "Cannon" demonstrate, Powers knows how to deliver a pop hook.
Physically, Youth Lagoon wasn't especially dynamic as performers — they remained mostly still while lit by two static red bulbs (a pain in our photog's ass, no doubt), and the songs were punctuated by Powers' tiny bits of friendly, kid-brother banter. But they nailed their parts, and with this sort of stuff, we'd rather hear it played well than see the players freak out, crowd surf or writhe onstage. So really, we liked it. And as Youth Lagoon finished their last song and we prepared to slip out the door, Basement/Grimey's proprietor Mike Grimes bid us farewell with a loving "See you in hell." To which we responded, naturally, with a resounding "I know that's right."