Friday, May 15, 2009

Faded Paper Figures @ Dakota Lounge, 5-13-09

This past Wednesday, while the rest of the city found out what lies in the shadow of the statue, I headed to Santa Monica to catch a set by Orange County's own indie/electro poppers, Faded Paper Figures. From listening to their songs ahead of time I expected it would be like the Postal Service show I never got to see, all blips and beeps and sensitive dudes with glasses.

The bar was about half full when I arrived, a much better turnout than I thought for a weekday on the Westside. The band took a few minutes to set up a keyboard, a synth, 2 Apple laptops, an electric guitar and a bass, then got right into their 40-minute set. It took a little while for the members to get comfortable playing, and it probably didn't help that the audience was standing far away from the stage or sitting down while lead singer R. John Williams and bassist Kael Aiden danced away in their button down shirts with an endearingly awkward shuffle.

The best songs had touches of added keyboard layers in all the right places, courtesy of backing vocalist Heather Aiden, and made really great use of intricately programmed drumbeats. But some of the more rock-leaning tunes sounded canned and forced with electronic drums, and definitely could've benefited from a live drummer. The beat on one song sounded almost exactly like "Such Great Heights" but for the most part Faded Paper Figures wasn't as Postal Service-esque as I assumed, and Williams' voice had more in common with Colin Meloy or Jeff Mangum than with Ben Gibbard.

Towards the end of the set, Williams and Aiden excitedly announced the addition of a member to the Faded Paper Figures family -- the ever-popular analog lover's dream, the Moog synthesizer. The show ended with a synth-heavy song, Aiden bent over his new toy and pulling out warm, trippy sounds. But the synth overpowered the rest of the music and vocals, rather than working together smoothly, and it detracted from the big ending rather than making it.

I have to give the band lots of credit though for pulling off an entire set with just a couple computers backing them up -- if nothing else, they sound really good on recording even if their live show was a bit lacking.

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