Saturday evening was not your typical hipster-littered night at NYC’s Rothko. Instead of seeing yet another danceable Killers-Rapture-Strokes clone, Canada’s dream pop group Memphis took the stage. The band’s two leaders, Stars frontman Torquil Campbell and musician Chris Dumont, met in a hospital in Egypt when recovering from a sleeping pill addiction. A very fitting story for a band that performs sophisticated soundscapes perfect for fans of intelligent pop.
For the band’s third ever performance, one could not help but be impressed. Campbell told the crowd that their first show was in Toronto, and nobody cares in Toronto. He actually considered this NYC show their first real gig, which fueled their excitement for an outstanding performance. Memphis is able to construct lush live arrangements that rival their CD, I Dreamed We Fell Apart. The combination of flute, saxophone, violin, guitar, bass, keys, and drums could have been a recipe for disaster, especially with such a new band. Campbell’s top-notch ensemble went through their repertoire with ease. Their live sound teeters between the quirky pop of Belle And Sebastian to the latter days of New Order (such as “Someone Like You” from Get Ready).
A highlight of their set was “The Second Summer” with its sing-along chorus and catchy melody. “For Anyone Eighteen” showcased the fragile, spatial nature of their music, with precise-yet-delicate percussion, flute, and Dumont’s guitar weaving around Campbell’s gentle vocals. One song that took life on stage was “East Van”, which revolves around a repeated female vocal duet that builds into a crescendo of saxophone, violin, and keys.
With a project that is still so young, this group is already a fine-tuned pop machine. Their newer material, including a “doo-wop about killing yourself”, shows that Memphis is just getting started. Memphis has what so many bands have lost: the art of melody. For more information, head over to their official website.