As Slow Bird worked over the post-rock melodic soundscape of “Backfire” Saturday night at The Crocodile, the comparisons to rising commodity Phantogram were easy to make. Perhaps it was the bank of multicolored LED lights that backlit the Seattle trio that suggested this leap, or maybe it was simply the bass-heavy pop music that was hiding underneath Joshua Dore’s screaming guitars.
Slow Bird singer and keyboardist Jennae Quisenberry doesn’t have the same brash stage presence of Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel, but she’s a more interesting singer and is willing to growl or choke out her lyrics as the situation calls for it. And where Phantogram — who sold out two shows in Seattle last year — uses such crushing bass in their live shows it smothers the texture of their songs, Slow Bird achieved a satisfying balance.
Slow Bird’s m.o. is clearly something different altogether, at any rate, and they’re as likely to draw comparisons to Austin’s post-rocker Explosions in the Sky as they are New York’s electronic rock duo. The dynamics at play with Slow Bird are starker than either of those bands, as a lone guitar, Quisenberry’s Fender Rhodes and drums do battle for leverage, trading supremacy in search of transcendent moments.
They found one such moment on the triumphant “All That’s Fearing,” which came in the middle of their set. It was a perfect counterpoint to the rumbling “The Captain,” which built the restrained momentum that “All That’s Fearing” unleashed. The songs are arranged in similar order on 2013′s “Chrysalis” and you could see why.
“Rose Gold” gave Dore a chance to weave some impressive melodies but he’s a smart player and never gets in the way of Quisenberry’s potent voice, which my companion thought sounded an awful lot like Zola Jesus. At times, the comparison was fair, like on “Rose Gold,” which unfurled slowly and highlighted Quisenberry’s pleasingly quirky annunciations.
The band finished up their relatively brisk set with the urgent “Sea Salt” and “Stars and Stripes,” which plodded, soared and then faded into the ether.
Perhaps as they continue to grow, Slow Bird will start to emphasize its pop sensibilities and understanding of hooks, which could give them a chance to blow up. As it stands, they’re making interesting post-rock that seems accessible in a way lots of bands don’t. Maybe that’s enough, because as it stands Slow Bird is a very good band.
But it’s tantalizing to think what they might become as they evolve. Seattle’s Phantogram? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails