Adem has been gliding under the radar of US music fans for far too long. For those of you unfamiliar with him, don't worry, as I am here to get you up to speed. The bassist for the post-rock trio Fridge began to work on his own music while the band was on hiatus. The results of these sessions became his '04 debut solo release, Homesongs, which is one of the most fascinating folk-pop albums I have heard. Well, that is, until the upcoming release of his sophomore album, Love And Other Planets.
I was first introduced to his fascinating songwriting two years ago when he performed as the opener for Badly Drawn Boy at NYC's Town Hall. It was one of those life-changing evenings when you are expecting very little from a concert and leave as a devoted fan of somebody new. There is something about the honesty of his hymn-like acoustic pop that reaches into your chest, grabs your heart and gives it a hug, musically. I was so blown away by the performance that I went back to the lobby during the intermission to meet Adem and to purchase a copy of Homesongs. He seemed shocked that he touched a good number of people in the audience that night, but it is that down to earth personality of his that is totally a part of his charm.
Last night Adem returned to New York City for a special one-off performance at Joe's Pub to introduce songs from his forthcoming new album here in the States. Although it has been out in the UK for a little while now, Love And Other Planets will get a domestic release via Domino on September 26. Adem brought along a backup musician last time he was in NYC, and also performs with a full band, but last night was truly a solo show. It was Adem all by his lonesome, with nothing but an acoustic guitar, harmonium, ukulele and an interesting instrument that resembled a coconut combined with a music box.
He walked onto the stage shortly past 10pm, dressed in a t-shirt with a large octopus on it. As the lights brightened, we could see that his harmonium was decorated with various colored cotton balls, looking like the craft project of an elementary school art class. It was actually done by "his Emma," who also saved the day by running back to grab his setlist from the dressing room. Although I would never call Adem's music childish, his songs do reflect that wide-eyed view of the world that typically is only found in a child. That is why the puffy clouds on his harmonium and the octopus t-shirt made perfect sense. It is his unique perspective on life, love and the universe that yields to musical experimentation with various sounds, melodies and instrumentation, setting him far apart from your typical singer-songwriter.
Adem included several of my favorites in his set, including "There Will Always Be," "Statued" and "These Are Your Friends." From the delicate strumming of "Warming Call" to the upbeat "Something's Going To Come," he commanded the stage with ease while performing his newest material. One of the standout moments of the night was with "Spirals," a song that he dedicated to Emma. She was sitting up near the soundboard up above the audience, and you could tell Adem was making eye contact with her at several points during the song. His expressive vocals come from such an honest place... you can't help but be moved by songs like that.
Although he admitted that some serious jetlag was setting in, Adem gave us a solid show filled with songs of old and new, as well as a few covers. His rendition of the Beach Boys "God Only Knows" was fun, but it was his ukulele cover of Bjork's "Unravel" that caught me by surprise. It was then that I noticed the occasional melodic similarities of Bjork and Adem. They both enjoy challenging listeners with catchy yet unusual melodies, making their music so intriguing.
Adem will be touring across North America with Juana Molina in October, and I encourage you all to go out and see him. He doesn't come to our shores all that often, so take advantage of this opportunity to hear this exceptional musician live.