Sunday, Nov. 14

The fact that Freelance Whales coalesced as a band while busking around New York City isn't a surprise, given their well-blended vocal harmonies. But that the band managed such varied instrumentation along the way is surely impressive.

The band's soaring, orchestral indie folk is built upon layers of non-rock instruments—glockenspiel, harmonium and banjo—as well as the typical guitar, bass and drums. Frontman Judah Dadone draws easy comparisons to Sufjan Stevens and Ben Gibbard, and the Freelance Whales' overall sound is like that of Postal Service, but more organic.

Dadone's songs and stage manner are earnest but geeky: He described the band's debut album Weathervanes as a "love letter to ghosts" and dedicated one song to "everyone's spirit animal." That tune, "The Great Estates," made the best use of the chiming glockenspiel, providing an insistent, yearning melody—fitting for an ode to spirit animals.

The best of the band's soundtrack-ready anthems, "Starring," leaned heavily on the keyboards to frame another one of Dadone's ghost stories: "This is me starring in a stranger's nightmare."

Set closer "Generator ^ Second Floor" paired banjo and a high-wire guitar riff, but it's the refrain that stood out the most. "We will put this flesh into the ground again" is a lyric that few bands could pull off, but Dadone and bassist Doris Cellar, singing in harmony, sprinkled the macabre image in glitter.

Encore "Broken Horse" was a gorgeous and haunting ballad, all plucked banjo and cold-winter imagery.

Before the Freelance Whales, the Miniature Tigers proved that growth through exposure is a good thing. Moving to Brooklyn has tightened the former Phoenix band's mellow and warm indie folk-rock.

Bear Hands opened the all-Brooklyn, all-animal-names show, with melodic guitars and rhythmic complexity that recalled bands like Surfer Blood and MGMT.


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