Not so much a band as a small army of pop experimentalists and psychedelic theater kids, Atlanta group the Back Pockets can feel a tad chaotic at times. Their albums show off a penchant for genre-hopping, animal noises, and voice-mail recordings, and during live performances, they wear facepaint. This isn’t to say they lack organization, or that they’re some theatrical goof on the indie-rock circuit. Nor does it imply they’re your typical avant-freaks whose music lies in some rhythmless fringe where song structure emerges from throwing darts at a music staff.
Instead, the Back Pockets’ musical idiosyncrasies could charm the jaded bore right out of the staunchest of wallflowers. With the exception of their very raw first (official) album, which has a silent track called “Shhh,” the Back Pockets never push their antics so far as to take their listeners for granted. Songs don’t get anarchic so much as they get wacky, creating bombastic soundscapes full of harmonies, major keys, shrieks, tribal rhythms, and reverb, while taking cues from bands as disparate as the Moldy Peaches, Coco Rosie, and Animal Collective. (One song, “H8,” is a dead ringer for Sonic Youth.) And that doesn’t include the electronica influences peppering each album.
The band’s latest, the five-song EP Magic, signals a maturation as its missing some trademark flights of fancy and bizarreness. It’s their strongest release to date as well as the band’s most diverse — though not their most eclectic. Radio-ready opener “Dynamite” is a powerful, wintry number mixing piano, minor tones, and lead singer Emily Kempf’s soaring vocals. The orange to “Dynamite”’s apple, “Birdie” invokes Weezeresque pop melodies (though via horns) and subtle conga rhythms. But if you want to know the heart of the Back Pockets’ sound look no further than “Lovelike,” a song the group’s remade three times. The version on album Hello Dandelion is the most accessible. Starting with a trance-inducing sluggishness, “Lovelike” layers a banjo with a sliding guitar, a creeky violin, hypnotic vocal harmonies, and occasional barks to puncture the glaze. Then comes the purge, a crescendoing so primal, emotional, romantic, and empowering, the only way to bring the listener back down from the clouds is – what else? – pranky dog barks and howls.
Where: Respectable Street (518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach)
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, May 3
Contact: Call 561-832-9999, or visit thehoneycomb.com