Minor Alps delighted fans at the Bowery on the 20th of November with a low-key acoustic set and what must be one of the most natural pairings in the music world: indie heavyweights Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.
Their record, Get There (on Barsuk Records), sounds just like what you would imagine if you put the two of them in a room together. The songs are immaculate, with melodies that are instantly gratifying but also get stronger with each listen and their voices combine perfectly. Take for example, lead single, I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands.
Minor Alps is not the first time the pair have collaborated. They opened the night with a Nada Surf song that Juliana guested on, I Wanna Take You Home, which appeared on the bonus disc of their album, Lucky. Later in the set, the roles would be reversed with Such a Beautiful Girl, a song from Hatfield’s 2008 record, How to Walk Alone, which featured Matthew Caws.
Over the course of the night, most of Get There was played and we were also treated to some of Juliana’s songs such as Candy Wrappers, Live on Tomorrow & June the 6th, as well as Nada Surf classics Inside of Love, Beautiful Beat, The Moon is Calling, The Way You Wear Your Head & Fruit Fly. I waxed lyrical about Nada Surf just a couple of days ago, of course. They also threw in a couple of covers, including The Everly Brothers’ When Will I Be Loved.
The acoustic format was refreshing, many of the songs on the record are recorded with a full electric band, but stripping the songs back gave them extra space to breathe and also reveal additional nuances.
Sylvan Esso opened the night and were an interesting electro-dance duo, although I found that I lost interest in their set after a few songs as it became a bit samey. I’m sure they’d have gone down well at the recent Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival.
This was essentially a hometown show and it certainly had that vibe. Matthew is from New York and noted that his family are always watching from the balcony when he plays the Bowery, which he clearly has a lot of love for, Nada Surf always seem to play here (including two incredible shows in December 2012.)
Side-projects and collaborations don’t always work out, but Minor Alps seem to effortlessly combine the talents of both songwriters with an equal footing. It can be hard to gauge the longevity of these things but with one of the best and most understated records of the year under their belt and an obvious onstage chemistry, I certainly hope for more in the future.