Monday, 22 December 2014

Groove Theories: Li Xi / Meet Me Somewhere

Li Xi
Meet Me Somewhere

by Sean Morris

Opening acts of live shows are often my favorite new music discoveries. San Francisco’s Li Xi played before Emily Wells at Rickshaw Stop last summer, and their infectious future-retro pop immediately prompted me to text “OMG it’s Stereobroadcastlab!” to several friends. With both of those bands on indefinite hiatus, it was wonderful to hear a band filling that void. Surprisingly, Li Xi is much more than another group aping their influences. On Meet Me Somewhere, they brilliantly build upon those legacies by infusing them with California love.

Vintage synthesizer sounds are front and center on each of these eight tracks, but never in the same way. They act as backbeat on “Carriages,” as clarion call on “Macro Garden,” and as ocean of noise on “Submarine Eyes.” James Vernon and Maryann Tran complement each other splendidly on both vocals and keys. “Pluto” grounds the spacey lounge with Will Cline’s surf rock bass line. Drummer Dennis Galway is equally adept at stately and spazzy rhythms, sometimes in the same song (“Moss Beach”). Meet Me Somewhere combines these talents with arrangements that are as gorgeous as they are smart.

Streamlining the album length to twenty-six minutes shoots the replay value through the roof. More than any other album released this fall except one, I have found myself returning to Meet Me Somewhere’s numerous lightning in a bottle moments. Xylophonic keys alluringly wander in and out of the woozy “Cherry Temple.” The refrain of “Macro Garden” consists of nothing more than the musicians firing on all cylinders, synths and percussion conducting a jaunty psychedelic freakout. “Folk Shade” is the best kind of anomaly, a wistful ballad with an understated melody and a full-fledged anthemic chorus:

“all these gems beside your window
that you hide away
it’s only a matter of time before you
laugh it all away
you know, there’s still time
hope you try and change your mind”

Like many indie bands in Northern California, Li Xi’s live performances are ostensibly fuzzed out jam sessions. Their electronic inclinations help them stand out, and playing any of these finely crafted songs helps even more. A few of them have been in Li Xi’s repertoire for years, and Monte Vallier (who also produced my favorite discovery of 2013) has done a superb job translating their stage magic to the studio. Meet Me Somewhere is the most accomplished debut album that I have heard this year.

Listen/purchase Li Xi's music on:

Zestyverse's resident Music Geek Sean Morris is an SF Bay Area native with a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. He is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television, a former Los Angeles Slam Team member, part of the collective Art 4 A Democratic Society, and a music blogger for The Owl Mag. Find him on TwitterSoundCloud, and YouTube.

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