When: Mon., May 9, 8 p.m. 2016
Since moving to LA a few years ago and falling into the creative orbit of Tim Presley of White Fence—her partner in last year’s wonderfully raw and chaotic Drinks project—Welsh singer Cate Le Bon has embraced an irresistible dichotomy, combining melodic elegance with increasingly jagged experimental arrangements. That tension reaches a fantastic apotheosis on the new Crab Day (Drag City). The title track opens with a relentless primitive thrum as Le Bon deadpans, “It doesn’t pay to sing your songs,” and when that metronomic beat finally blooms into a swing pattern during the chorus she underlines her stern delivery with an ethereal overdubbed harmony, celebrating an imaginary holiday with a simple request for someone to “sing your heart to me.” In many of the songs there’s open questioning, a kind of existential search that makes room for whimsical turns of phrase and wild imagery; on the hooky “I’m a Dirty Attic,” the title seemingly obvious in its wordplay, she sings, “Paint me in a picture / With a new face.” Le Bon balances things hard and evident with notions slippery with doubt and uncertainty, both in her words and in arrangements that embroider scrappy guitar and keyboards with warm dollops of vibraphone and blurting saxophone. In some ways Crab Day feels transitory compared with her earlier, more refined albums, but it could just be Le Bon is herself transitory, always evolving and pushing. Either scenario works for me: few contemporary singers excite me more.