Blouse kicked off Captured Tracks' 5-year anniversary with their record release show at Glasslands in anticipation of Imperium, due for official release on the 17th of September.
I'd seen opening band, Writer, earlier in the summer at South Street Seaport supporting Fear of Men and I think their sound benefited from the more intimate setting that Glasslands provides. Brothers Andy and James Ralph create a fuzzed up racket that ultimately made for a nice contrast with the rest of the evening's offering. If they can continue the upward trajectory that latest single, I Make Neon, suggests, they will be one to watch.
Next up we had Donovan Blanc, whom I was completely ignorant of before they took to the stage. Musically I liked the dreamy acoustic guitar tones, reminiscent of The Go-Betweens without ever hitting the same heights, the songs were performed competently but I wasn't enthralled, these are clearly early days, however, so let's see how they progress.
Blouse took to the stage a little after 10pm and began with the opening four tracks from Imperium, immediately showing off their new guitar-driven (and synthless) direction. They appear to have successfully changed whilst still sounding like themselves, a bold but rare and underrated quality where so many acts either completely sidestep to the point of being unrecognisable (not such a bad thing if the material is still good) or regurgitating the same song over and over. The one thing that unites all the material is Charlie Hilton's voice, which is delivered so gracefully with seemingly no effort at all.
The synths were brought out mid-set for a quickfire double of Time Travel and Videotapes from their self-titled debut, but these were not merely nuggets thrown out as crowd-pleasers, and the difference between the material helps build a varied set in sound and pace.
At this stage we hit a slight technical problem with a broken snare drum, which did take the momentum out of the show a little bit, but after Jacob Portrait (who was sporting a shirt featuring artwork from Seth Bogart of Hunx and his Punx) acquired a replacement we were back up to the present with new song, Arrested.
Blouse then breezed through the two songs that have been released for promotion, In a Feeling Like This, which does feature some electronic percussion and a delightfully simple lead guitar line, follwed up by the single No Shelter, which is just as delicious as anything on their eponymous debut.
The night ended with their flagship track, Into Black, which is one not many bands can claim to better this decade. It's always a bit of a kick in the teeth to see an encore scribbled onto a setlist and then not played. A trio of White, Shadow (their 7" single on Sub Pop) and the closing track from the new record, Trust Me, were due to be performed. There seemed sufficient enthusiasm from the crowd for an encore but New York audiences seem to give up very easily (or not even bother) and the house lights came up fairly shortly, this is in pretty stark contrast to shows back home in England (and yes I feel dirty for using the US date-format in the title...). Of course there are arguments for and against encores (they should be earned not expected, etc) but sometimes there seems to be an almost willful desire in this city for a band not to come out again and play more songs! It would have fleshed out the night quite superbly, as it was I felt that the show was a little too short for a headline act at a record release show.
Blouse should be applauded for not remaining static, and in any case their change in sounds feels feels natural from the perspective of this listener, unless you're hell-bent on only listening to songs with synths you won't be disappointed with the new material.