Brooklyn’s Exitmusic has been a band that I’ve been excited about throughout this year. After putting on a stellar set opening for School of Seven Bells a few months ago and releasing a highly impressive debut album entitled Passage, they were back in Los Angeles on Wednesday to deservedly headline The Satellite.
The core of Exitmusic consists of husband and wife Devon Church (guitar) and Aleksa Palladino (vocals/guitar/keyboard) who formed the musical outlet back in 2003. Palladino’s name and face might seem a bit familiar because of her role as Angela Darmody in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. But with time, I have no doubts that she will be known more for her music than her on-screen roles, which is not a bad thing at all.
With the style of dark dream-pop/shoegaze that Exitmusic plays, there’s a certain mystery that heightens the emotion behind their music. In most cases, bands that barely interact with the crowd makes for an awkward show, leaving behind awkward silences in between songs. But in this case, it fit in context because their songs have that ability to draw you in and take you on an emotional endeavor.
Donning an elegant pastel green dress, Palladino came out with Church and a touring percussionist, and open their set with “The Sea.” Initial comparisons are made to Beach House, who is arguably the standard for which the contemporary dream pop sound is set. But immediately from their opening song, they immediately establish that they are simply Exitmusic.
Songs such as “The Sea,” “The Modern Age,” and “The City” shows that they are much more aggressive and raw sounding. When she sings, Palladino has a tremble in her voice that heightens the emotion that lies within the lyrics. In a live setting, its effect is more surreal than on record especially when it builds to a devastating and crushing climax on that trio of songs. Those songs also highlight the devastatingly beautiful backdrop of the Mogwai/Explosions in the Sky-esque guitar melodies that also compliment the vocals.
And then there are those moments when they played songs that were downright haunting. The electronic percussion and Church’s simple-yet-effective riffs worked perfectly with Palladino’s echoed “hoo-hoo” melodies that almost sounded isolated, but transcended beyond the confines of the room. The whole echoes and reverbs effect seems to be rather played out in today’s music, but not with Exitmusic. They utilize those techniques to near-perfection, which then has the ability to actually affect an audience.
They ended their set with “White Noise” and “Passage” that, again, displayed Palladino’s unique vocal usage. Her vibrato on the former was spine-tingling, using an added emphasis to vibrate her voice that provided a reverb effect to it. The latter was a tender piano ballad guided by faint vocals until her voice soared and rode along with the swirling guitars backed by the crashing percussion. In short, it was sonic ecstasy.
The only disappointment and surprise was that their set came in at under an hour (50 minutes to be exact). While they could’ve thrown in a couple more songs, including the beautiful and ethereal “Sparks of Light,” it was the quality of their set that mattered most due to the cinematic nature of their songs. Each song has a strong narrative contained in the lyrics, but they were carried by the stark musicianship. If I had to come out with a list of bands to watch at this very moment, Exitmusic would no doubt be at the top of the list.
The Modern Age
White Noise (vibrato)