NXNE ‘13: Mozart’s Sister / Gentleman Reg @ The Rivoli – June 12, 2013

June 30, 2013 No comments
Written by Dustin Cordeiro

Photo of Gentlemen Reg by Dustin Cordeiro

Bubbly, bouncy and teeming with life, Mozart’s Sister’s energetic set, on NXNE’s first night of tunes, was not one to miss.

A one-woman band turned duo (or at least for live shows), the off-kilter musical persona of Mozart’s Sister sounds closer to that of Kate Bush than fellow Montreal pop-star Grimes, whom she’s at times likened to. But in a live setting it’s easier to see why they attract comparaisons, as frontwoman Caila Thompson-Hannant makes use of every knob and pedal to build upon her hard kick beats, layering them with vocal loops and bouncing around the stage in a theatrical manner not unlike Claire Boucher. But having a discernible point of reference isn’t always a bad thing, especially since Claire has praised Caila and cited her as one of her “biggest inspirations” in a recent blog post. It’s nice to see that the pop stars of the indiesphere don’t get pulled into the ridiculous catfights many of today’s pop divas are forced to encounter.

However “diva” could still be an apt word to describe Caila’s performance style, and not just because at one point she lamented the difficulty of playing the keyboard with freshly manicured nails, but because her vocal work and theatricality is sometimes reminiscent of a few pop powerhouses in particular.

On self-titled track, “Mozart’s Sister,” Caila bemoans her vexation of always feeling second best and in the process turns her sourness sweet with a soaring chorus recalling the eccentric nature of Kate Bush. She pushes this ‘Bushy’ eccentricity further with the “goo goo ga goo” baby noises that end the song. The R&B tinge of new song “Lone Wolf” saw Caila evoking some Mariah Carey-style vocals (complete with dramatic hand gestures) at the song’s breakdown. This was also the track best suited for Mozart’s Sister as a duo, as Caila and her bandmate criss-crossed around each other’s vocals, creating a lively chorus for another lyrically grim song.

“Don’t Leave It To Me” seemed like the most cathartic performance of the night for Caila, as she wailed lyrics of heartbreak over a crunchy beat and jumpy synthline. “You know I love you baby,” she hushed breathlessly as a last call of desperation, before bursting into the song’s climatic hook.

Interest in Mozart’s Sister was certainly at a good level, as evidenced by their ability to draw the largest audience of the night, which was noticeably less intact for Gentleman Reg’s set around midnight. But the smaller crowd was better suited for Reg’s more intimate set as he played a mix of tracks from last year’s independently released album (meaning, “No one’s heard it”) Leisure Life and 2009’s Jet Black, as well as a cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” with lead vocals by keyboard player Kelly McMichael. Songs like “We’re In a Thunderstorm” and “To Some It Comes Easy” were highlights from the ‘09 release, but more noteworthy was Reg’s delicious shade (i.e snub) thrown to Arts & Crafts, the label that released Jet Black, rather meagerly, back in 2009.

“That album was released by a label called Arts & Crafts. You guys know Arts & Crafts right? Anyone at the Arts & Crafts’ 10th anniversary show? I wasn’t… Well I was, but I was watching from where you guys were,” Reg facetiously told the crowd, with a smile that proved he wasn’t too bitter. But it seemed within reason, considering a quote from Metric’s James Shaw in the April issue of Flare Magazine where he laments the way things turned out for Jet Black, saying “When that record comes on, it’s a bruise. You feel like you let people down.” Despite any wrongdoings, Reg laughed off the hard feelings and named a few artists off A&C’s roster that he loves. Sometimes it’s just fun to throw a little harmless shade.

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