One EskimO - Live
The atmosphere at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street between East 4th and Astor Place in New York's East Village) is neither quite hip nor chic. The decor of the place is geared more toward olden-time Jazz Age ensembles but populated mostly by up-and-comers in their 20s. The place quiets down as the lights dim and the four members of One eskimO settle into their spots. Their vocalist, Kristian Leontiou, lounges in the dark, standing while the other members sit, as necessitated by a variety of instruments strategically placed about the stage.
A medium-sized screen above the band flickers to life and they launch into the first song of the evening, a mellow ballad titled “Hometime.” This song and ten others are part of a self-titled concept album that also serves as the band’s debut. On screen, a cartoon unfolds, featuring a plucky Eskimo who searches for his beloved and escapes the clutches of a magical villain. The songs almost never reference the action on screen directly, but seeing the cartoon allows the music to act as a soundtrack, an effect that is not reproduced when sitting down to listen to the album without the video accompaniment.
Their 11-song set clocks in at a reasonable 50-or-so minutes, but the sedate flow of the album, coupled with Leontiou’s gentle delivery as he rocks on the balls of his feet, cradling the microphone as he croons in a voice that mixes bits Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne falsetto dips with just a dash of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke painfully confessional yelps. Adam Falkner’s drums provide ample background and quickly establish a driving beat that persists for the rest of most songs. Pete Rinaldi and Jamie Sefton, on guitar and bass/horns, respectively, pick unhurried notes that make for relaxing cacophony.
Picking out a standout song is problematic as the live performance feels like a single lengthy piece; a slow, melancholic series of softly-sang lyrics. It’s not necessarily unmemorable, but not very gripping either and more effective as a component of the visual storytelling than a stand-alone album. The most memorable song of the set was “Chocolate,” with Leontiou intoning “Can I have your attention please?” in spacey falsetto. If anything, One eskimO’s debut is escapist art; fluffy and comforting soft alt. rock that doesn’t summon up much of an urge to pump your first in the air, but is still a decent alternative to the constant stream of indistinguishable three-chord emo rockers that seem to dominate today’s scene.
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