Pitchfork gave Airborne Toxic Events debut album a 1.6 last fall, dismissing it as an album thats almost insulting in its unoriginality. The Los Angeles-based band replied with an eloquent open letter, but its honest, expressive live shows constitute an even stronger response. Using a violin and an electric bass played with a bow, Airborne Toxic Event creates a lush atmosphere even Pitchforks negative review describes as musically sumptuous, occasionally spiking this orchestral ambience with jaunty garage-rock. Singer/guitarist Mikel Jollet alters his narrators voices to complement the shifting accompaniments. During Does This Mean Youre Moving On?, he favors quick, rhythmic rhymes (moan/alone/stone). For the dramatic Sometime Around Midnight, he uses grander flourishes (the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined.) Ultimately, both songs address the same topic (dead or decaying relationships) with equal lyrical and instrumental clarity. Jollet, a McSweeneys-published fiction writer, isnt afraid to make his characters pathetic. These liquor-drenched sad sacks might not always be likable, but theyre relatable. Much as the pianos in Jollets bars play a melancholy soundtrack to her smile, Airborne Toxic Event concerts provide an emotionally charged backdrop for the sort of beautifully doomed romantic interactions described in its songs.
Sun., Feb. 15, 7 p.m., 2009