selfportrait.net's blog covering community artists, gallery shows, and the whereabouts of young entrepreneurs and artistic talents from NY, LA, London, Paris, the world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Americans

It is clear that Rolling Stone sometimes still has a point. This was especially proven in a small blurb under the editor's picks column last month. “Powerpop” they said, “is the new Afro-Pop.” And indeed, it seems that the type of music that Vampire Weekend made so popular last winter is being usurped by the style of music that is being played by a young, New York City band of great talent, the Americans. Made up primarily of Charlie Klarsfeld (vocals and guitar), Julia Tepper (back up vocals), Xan Aird (bass) and Peter Negroponte (drums), the band features accompaniment by the Dap Kings (Mark Ronson's house band) on horns. Together, they have created a wonderfully strong collection of catchy pop melodies that are as danceable as their lyrics are pertinent.



Klarsfeld, the chief songwriter of the group, has constructed an erudite, Baroque pop sound making excellent use of his musicians to create songs that remain chipper and lighthearted, yet orchestral and well contained. Dominated by thumping piano and punctuated by Klarsfeld's relaxed, garage-y guitar playing, the compositions embrace their retro feel while maintaining a progressive structure of successful transitions of disparate melodies; not just between songs, but within them. At the same time, nothing seems excessive or pretentious, the bells and whistles (literally) all fuse to a serious musical undertaking. Add his strong, Brian Wilson-eque voice, some goose-bump raising soulful licks (courtesy of Ms. Julia Tepper) and you have a combination capable of anthemic sensitivity in lyrics and musicianship.



Klarsfeld's words are something of the literature of place and, lyrically, he is clearly paying homage to his hometown of New York City. While songs about New York are nothing new, the urban schema provides him with a background for some seriously original reflections on life, love, our awkward yet often hilarious idiosyncrasies, and even a little backhanded hopefulness. The Americans are a band for the moment; a band for the summer in New York. Their exuberance and vanguard talent is something that has come along at the very best time. And, as Fall begins in the City and NYU students return to their dorms, the song "One Night Stand" will, I'm sure, become even more appropriate.

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