Words and photos by Nate Dorr
How big are Love Is All these days? Perhaps not as big as I feel they could or should be, but the Swedish quintet, staking out a thrilling, meticulously lo-fi space somewhere between the indie pop of their own country and the Brooklyn post-punk of their home What's Your Rupture? label, seem well positioned to step into greater success at any moment. This is a band following up a widely acclaimed debut with a sophomore disc (A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, due on November 11) already becoming garlanded with anticipation and early positive assessments. It is also a band that just opened for Of Montreal at New York City's Roseland Ballroom. And so, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the band's continuing interest in operating on a scale that they could, if they chose, be out-growing just about now, burning a few copies themselves of covers EPs to offer at shows, and continually playing smaller settings whenever they have the chance. Given that I first saw the band live at a free, unadvertised performance in an art gallery two years ago, it seems fitting (and fortunate) that, I should see them next at in the basement of Williamsburg art space Secret Project Robot, their inclusion on the bill announced only a day before the show.
[Love Is All]
Sure, this wasn't just any art space basement, having once housed a series shows as Llano Estacado, but aside from the rain-moved Monster Island Block party that put Oneida on the stage there a month ago (stage being more a state of mind, or a corner, than any actually raised or otherwise delineated space) it's been out of service for a while. Love Is All actually played second of four bands, following a set by local psych-folk clan Woods, but were also clearly the main draw for the evening, with crowds quickly packing close in a 270 degree arc of cellar. Packing so close, in fact, that singer Josephine Olausson inadvertently caught the end of a guitar above the left eye early on, leaving a nasty bump that did nothing to slow down her or the band, but did prompt show organizer Todd P to appear out of the audience between songs a few times to dab off blood, as if prepping a prize fighter for the next round.
And what rounds they were: amid old favorites from the first album like "Busy Doing Nothing" and "Talk Talk Talk", the band displayed a gleaming showcase of new favorites-in-the-making from the next, like "Give It Back" a blazing three minutes of jabbing guitar, constant sax embellishment, and one of their strongest chorus parts to date, feinting into pre-chorus similar to that of prior live staple "Rumors" before jumping keys and octaves in a manner both unexpected and unexpectedly perfect. Nothing in these newest songs, mostly uptempo and terribly catchy, is all that different from what we have come to expect from the band, but that may be in part a result of the surprising breadth of the debut, with the 11 songs both displaying a confident consistency of palette, and barely able to contain all the styles being pulled in. In that way, a set of new songs expanding on those templates was more than welcome. Needless to say, the band sounded excellent live and much of the audience couldn't help but dance.
[Love Is All]
The other touring highlight of the night was L.A.'s Abe Vigoda, who had shared a stage with Love Is All just a couple days before at Maxwell's in Hoboken. Abe Vigoda also have a certain common palette across their songs, but it's a fairly unusual one. The band's debut is called Skeleton, which seems apt, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than bones, the sound conjures architectural frameworks: a skeletal structure assembled of sproinging guitar lines linked into a rigid but flexible edifice that, when the wind comes up, beings to resonate with deep, precise tones.