Photos by Paige Parsons
During last night’s near-perfectly curated Noise Pop show at the Fox Theatre in Oakland, surrounded by lots of eager New Pornographers fans, I couldn’t stop thinking about Fleetwood Mac. This was because at one point, during a particularly desolate and emotional performance of “Words I Don’t Remember” by Tom Krell of How To Dress Well, there was a brief moment where I thought to myself that the vocal stylings and androgynous tone of the singer reminded me of Lindsey Buckingham just as much as they did R. Kelly.
With that circulating my brain for the rest of the evening, I realized there was a profound beauty in the lineup for the evening, one that both quietly and determinately grabbed the reigns of pop music and regurgitated them through varying degrees of adoption and deconstruction, similar to say, Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night. Three talented and compelling pop advocates took the stage in succession — from Nick Diamonds and his weird and stellar ear for lo-fi indie gems (and whose superbly off-kilter record Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone with the now-defunct Unicorns was an important record from a time when indie music could still be bizarre), to Tom Krell’s sincere and unwavering devotion to finding true passion through the seemingly uncomplicated embrace of R&B and contemporary radio, and finally to Canadian power pop heroes The New Pornographers, whose occasionally wearisome set was more than compensated for by the fact that the band’s sheer sound level and musical mastery convinced me to not totally favor the occasional songs sung in Dan Bejar’s lovely nasal tenor.
Putting these three acts together was a clever move, and although seemingly disparate in their approaches, a clear and distinctive take on the unparalleled influence of the world of pop seemed to be the theme of the evening. How To Dress Well’s performance was a clear standout, from the band member’s coordinating all-white ensembles to Tom’s understated freestyle odes to both Young Thug and Kanye West. He is an emotive singer, subversive performer, and true popstar in the most unembellished sense. Here’s to hoping his career is just as long and fruitful as Lindsey Buckingham’s.