by (@unclegrambo)

Concert Review: Teeth & Tongue Beguiles A Small But Fervent Crowd In New York City

Have you ever seen a concert that’s been put on by a single person? No, by that we don’t mean a “solo artist,” someone who’s got a bassist, a drummer, and a roadie or two to get their guitars tuned for them in between songs while they preen behind the mic. We mean someone who, quite literally, stands up on stage all by their lonesome, setting up their instruments and pedals, then performing with nary another individual on stage, then tearing it all down at the end of a set. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in, both as a performer and as an audience member, and a stark and intimate way to take in a performance.

We mention all this because we caught Teeth & Tongue‘s set at Piano’s in New York’s Lower East Side last night, one in which she performed all the duties mentioned above, PLUS playing the keyboard, drum machine and the guitar. Teeth & Tongue is the musical project of 31-year-old Jess Cornelius, who hails from Melbourne, Australia and is currently wrapping up her current North American tour. We caught a few minutes of her set at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival a few weeks back, which was intriguing enough to get us to brave the crisp chill in the air last night to see her showcase her talents.

Teeth & Tongue has a beguiling, sultry sound, one that to this listener lies somewhere between Cat Power and Bat For Lashes. She’s got a real knack for setting the scene in her songwriting, and has a novelist’s gift for conveying the kind of minute details in her lyrics that really put the listener in her head space. Take her confessional breakup song “Unfamiliar Skirts”, for example, a song that’s ostensibly about a couple that’s on one of those ill-fated “breaks.” It contains emotionally raw lyrics like “They all have long eyelashes that drink compliments like dew” and “You can seek forgiveness in their muscles and their thighs,” phrases that read like poetry and take on a heartbreaking quality when paired with her expressive voice and feedback-laden guitar accents. Check out what we mean in this video for the song, her first single off Tambourine (now available on Spotify), her second full-length album.

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by (@unclegrambo)

SXSW 2012: Diane Birch Dazzles, While The-Dream Disappoints

Diane Birch Performs At SXSW 2012

Diane Birch‘s 2009 album, Bible Belt, was one of the most promising debut LPs to emerge in the last five years. Her voice and songwriting style eschews the kind of tawdry, disposable fluff that tends to get traction on Top 40 radio, and instead hearkens back to the confessional singer-songwriter style of legends like Carole King and Laura Nyro. Aside from her 2010 digital-only cover album The Velveteen Age, she’s been holed up in the studio for the last few years working on her sophomore record. So when we heard that she would be road testing songs from her forthcoming LP (due out summer-ish) at an intimate showcase show during Day Three of the 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival, we dropped our previous plans and made our way over to the Intercontinental Hotel.

It turned out to be an awesome decision.

Birch played seven songs in her roughly 40 minute set, all of which were new to our ears. Whereas her work on Bible Belt alternated between torch songs and jaunty melodies, her new material was considerably more layered and widescreen in its sound. Take her first single, “Speak A Little Louder” (which premiered on Idolator yesterday), for example: She layers reverbed vocals over a bed of warm, atmospheric synths, creating a mood that we saw RCRD Label describe perfectly as “vintage chill.” Over the last few years, she seems to have spent considerable time and effort honing her songwriting craft, particularly when it comes to penning choruses that instantly get stuck in your brain. Birch even proved capable of writing anthemic melodies; the last song of her set last night contained a refrain that promised “We’re superstars tonight.” Considering the way the crowd reacted to her set, that line is certainly prophetic of Birch’s future in 2012.

Other sets we caught last night:
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