Frances Quinlan (photo: Jon Bauer)
Feeling more like a quaint backyard barnstorm gathering with your closest friends than a blowout party, the last night of Noise Pop was an endearing showcase of four female artists each equipped with truly charming, idiosyncratic music.
Starting the night was Bernie and the Wolf, hailing from Chicago. As attendees began to gather to sit on the floor beneath the Edison lights illuminating the exposed rafters, Bernadette “Bernie” Conant eased the crowd into the night with her solo acoustic set. Utilizing the power of her voice to make up for the lack of her bandmate, Erik Lobo, Conant had no issue getting the attention of the crowd.
Next up was San Jose’s awakebutstillinbed. A local favorite, the “extremo” of Shannon Taylor was raw and powerful in the small venue, amplified exponentially by moments of quiet grace punctured with guttural screams. Taylor used every inch of the space to showcase her lengthy, heartwrenching tunes from her 2018 record, what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you. This sense of unflinching vulnerability could come across as sophomoric under less capable hands, but watching Taylor feels a bit like watching yourself, self-defeating impulses included. You can’t help but root for her.
The second half of the bill began with the beatific, calm waves of sound from Mary Lattimore.
With a 47-string harp at her disposal, Los Angeles-based Lattimore creates stunning, ambient atmospheres of sound that seem utterly effortless. Awarded a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts (a seaside artist colony just to the north of us in Sausalito), Lattimore spent two summer months living with 15 fellow artists of various crafts. Her record, “Hundreds of Days,” was the output of her solitude in a barn onsite.
“It Feels Like Floating” is one of these explorations, with Lattimore playing unwearyingly for eleven minutes as vocal flourishes, piano, theremin and keyboard weave in and out, allowing the listener to drift alongside with peaceful pleasure. Her idyllic surroundings certainly provided her (and us) a respite — a calm rebuke to our frenetic world. This was exactly what listeners were awarded at Swedish American Music Hall, as Lattimore lulled everyone into peace.
Finally, closing the night out with her acerbic songwriting and unconventional song structures was Frances Quinlan.
Known for her strong presence as the front person for her band, Hop Along, Quinlan was eager to showcase her solo efforts on the beginning of her tour in support of her recently released record, Likewise. Instead of hunkering down deep into Hop Along’s knotty sonics and wit, “Likewise” eschews those complexities to allow Quinlan’s voice to shine. It’s a delicate and warm approach, and Quinlan used this to her advantage on the small stage, especially on album highlight “Rare Thing.” Just a voice and a keyboard is enough to make an impact, and at Swedish American Hall, Quinlan was Noise Pop’s convincing final confidante.