Airborne Toxic Event

Sunday, February 15

Pitchfork gave Airborne Toxic Event’s debut album a 1.6 last fall, dismissing it as “an album that’s almost insulting in its unoriginality.” The Los Angeles-based band replied with an eloquent open letter, but its honest, expressive live shows constitute an even stronger response. Using a violin and an electric bass played with a bow, Airborne Toxic Event creates a lush atmosphere even Pitchfork’s negative review describes as “musically sumptuous,” occasionally spiking this orchestral ambience with jaunty garage-rock. Singer/guitarist Mikel Jollet alters his narrators’ voices to complement the shifting accompaniments. During “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”, he favors quick, rhythmic rhymes (moan/alone/stone). For the dramatic “Sometime Around Midnight,” he uses grander flourishes (“the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined.”) Ultimately, both songs address the same topic (dead or decaying relationships) with equal lyrical and instrumental clarity. Jollet, a McSweeney’s-published fiction writer, isn’t afraid to make his characters pathetic. These liquor-drenched sad sacks might not always be likable, but they’re relatable. Much as the pianos in Jollet’s bars play “a melancholy soundtrack to her smile,” Airborne Toxic Event concerts provide an emotionally charged backdrop for the sort of beautifully doomed romantic interactions described in its songs.

Sun., Feb. 15, 7 p.m., 2009

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