When Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin was formed 14 years ago, lead singer Philip Dickey told the modest Tractor Tavern crowd gathered for the Wednesday night show that the band never imagined it would play a gig in Seattle.
But that was a long time ago and the band has now been through Seattle nine times. Last night, SSLYBY’s tight brand of indie pop brought some cheer to a bitter, windy night that further signaled the change in season.
The five-piece from Springfield, Mo., started out with a little nostalgia, ripping through a rocking version of “Pangea,” the first track off their 2006 debut album “Broom.”
They kept the momentum up with the bright “Young Presidents,” one of the best cuts from their recent release “Fly By Wire.” A bit of jangly, syrupy goodness, the song gained some teeth Wednesday thanks to lead guitarist Will Knauer’s nifty guitar work.
After “Harrison Ford,” a thoughtful mid-tempo rocker off “Fly By Wire” that gave the band a chance to catch its breath, Dickey traded spots with Jonathan James behind the drum kit for five songs, including the Oregon shoutout “Oregon Girls” and “Nightwater Girls,” surprisingly heavy until the fuzz gave way to more harmonies and delicate guitar lines.
Dickey, who claims to be a better drummer than guitarist, benefited when he switched back to the guitar. He sings with a falsetto that can be somewhat cloying, and the added labor of playing the drums made his vocals a bit uneven. Back on the guitar, he finished strong.
Two bands with a similar modus operandi opened. Seattle’s Hibou, the brainchild of Peter Michel, got things rolling with snaky guitar riffs and Michel’s sensitive-guy vocals.
Army Navy took over and provided an interesting counterpoint to Hibou with a sunny, straight-ahead approach that gave away the band’s Southern California roots. They do have a local connection; Lead singer Justin Kennedy is a Seattle native (he played with Benjamin Gibbard in Pinwheel) and his parents were at the show.
A lot of bands get slapped with the amorphous label “indie pop,” and Wednesday night was a reminder of the impressive variety of sounds that fall under that umbrella.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails