Courtney Barnett @ Rickshaw Stop 2/24/13 (Noise Pop 2014) - photo by Nicole Browner
Photos by Nicole Browner

Courtney BarnettHailing from Melbourne, Australia, Courtney Barnett has become an overnight ambassador for Aussie slacker folk rock. Headlining Monday night’s sold-out Noise Pop pre-party, Barnett wore a loose-fitting shirt with stripes — this was grunge fashion, no doubt about it — and it turned out that Barnett wasn’t looking to be a “folk” singer last night. She brought the rock by letting her drum and bass backing band turn up loud and drive a thick low-end.

I didn’t expect her to rock like that, and I don’t think much of the audience did either. There were plenty of satisfying 4/4 thumping grooves but Barnett runs into trouble with her music’s sameness in the live setting, where the band tended to drown out the subtle guitar work and turns-of-phrase lyrics that define her debut, The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas. At best, it’s honest, no bullshit music where Barnett can be witty, brash, and flippant all at once. You can’t beat the opening lines to “Lance Jr.”: “I masturbated to the songs you wrote / resuscitated all my hopes/ it felt wrong but it didn’t take too long.” And it’s that kind of cleverness that will continue to help Barnett appeal to a wide-audience, even if her songwriting can occasionally get lost in the shuffle.

Fever the GhostDriving up to Noise Pop from Los Angeles, Fever the Ghost weren’t necessarily my favorite band but one can’t deny that these guys are giving it 110%. The bark-and-whisper vocals were drenched in echo effects, the keyboardist wore a reflective silver body suit, and the music drew inspiration from the truly deep outer space side of glam rock. If that’s not appealing, how about the first keyboard solo you’ve heard in years.

Kins: These Brighton-UK blokes sound like the Postal Service high on post-rock and muscular drum riffs. Or maybe I just mean Clinic, with whom lead singer Thomas Savage shares a high-pitched singing style and quirky melodic sensibility. Either way, an intriguing art-rock set early in the night.