Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

Lykke Li Tops a Strong Bill at Turner Hall

By Evan Rytlewski
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Though they didn't upstage the headliner, last night's Lykke Li concert at the Turner Hall Ballroom benefited from a pair of nice openers: Esser and Miike Snow, two acts with far fuller live shows than their recordings suggest.

Esser was the more disposable of the two, a British singer with Vanilla Ice's hair and Terry Hall's voice, which only further highlighted The Specials accents in his shuffling, electro-pop grooves. Miike Snow, a Swedish band, was far more ambitious. The band pairs producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, better known as Bloodyshy & Avant, the team behind one of the best dance songs of the decade, Britney Spears' "Toxic," with bearded songwriter/showman Andrew Wyatt. At times it was an odd contrast—imagine a Cat Stevens type fronting Depeche Mode—but mostly it was a completely logical marriage of contemporary tastes, bridging the gap between Fleet Foxes-styled songwriting and Animal Collective-styled blip. The band knows how to land a song, too, closing most of them with dynamic, earned payoffs.

Headliner Lykke Li was typically enigmatic. Like the grown-up Olsen twins she resembles, she was both histrionically confident about yet awkward in her own body, hiding it behind her layers of billowing black fabric even as she purported to flaunt it. Li's voice is so small it sounds like sneakers on a gymnasium floor when she pushes it too far, but she uses it well, conveying emotions through little peeps instead of big notes. And though she faced the same problem all green headliners do—how to stretch one album's worth of material into an entire show—her debut, Youth Novels, left her more than enough great material to work with, and she padded it with some crowd-thrilling filler, like a chipper interpolation of Lil Wayne's "A Milli." It was a brisk, charming show, as short and sweet as the headliner herself.

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