Casiotone for the Painfully Alone + Magical Beautiful – Mercury Lounge – April 27
Ahhh, Chicago. Home of our president, the Bears, and more importantly, the two bands that are the subject of this post. With two separate shows on the agenda on Tuesday night, things got started early at the Mercury Lounge.
I had never heard of the opener, Magical Beautiful, but when I saw a melodica propped up on Alance Ward’s drum kit, I figured it was probably a good sign. Experts in sound manipulation, the four members of Magical Beautiful did some interesting things on stage. At times, it was hard to tell where one song stopped and the next began. Often, one song seemed to flow into the next without so much as a pause to separate them. The only indication would be a swift change of tempo.
Another focal point of the band is lead singer Tyson Torstensen’s strange voice. Delivered mostly in monotone (but with occasional reaches to a higher octave), Torstensen’s voice seemed like it would have been a good fit for one of those Soviet pop songs. OK, so I don’t know much about Soviet-era pop music, but I did have fun imagining Magical Beautiful being commissioned to play it. Torstensen’s vocals are often indecipherable and chant-like anyway (case in point – “Wings in the Sky.”) Who’s to say there isn’t propaganda embedded within their lyrics?
Believe what you will about long, unwieldy band names. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone has a nice ring to it. It’s descriptive, fitting for the music, and it rhymes. Sure it’s not neat or succinct, but then neither are Owen Ashworth’s songs.
I’ve seen Casiotone for the Painfully Alone a few times now, but Monday night was the first time I saw Owen playing with a band, which made for quite the change. On one hand, it was good to hear the music more flushed out. In addition to the usual – a keyboard and some pre-recorded tracks, the stage was flanked by a guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone, and drums for the majority of the Casiotone set. But on the other hand, I have to say the show was a bit less personal. Owen writes such intimate and honest lyrics that it’s a bit strange to have other people there on the stage to partake in the music. There were also fewer entertaining breaks between songs. Traditionally, one of my favorite things about Casiotone shows is hearing Owen’s anecdotes, but there was little time for that on Tuesday night (perhaps due to the double booking and time constraints). Luckily, Owen’s songs each paint a vivid scene, and the lyrics in his songs are much more entertaining than most artists’ banter. In fact, the lyrics are so personal and confessional in all their awkwardness that I feel as if we are friends even though we’ve spoken only briefly. Even though I haven’t never had my mom in on me with a boy or bought a matching outfit for an estranged friend, I find myself identifying and emphasizing with the songs.
Owen played a combination of newer songs and a handful from 2006’s Etiquette (“Nashville Parthenon,” “I Love Creedence,” “New Years Kiss,” and “Bobby Malone”), which were all crowd pleasers. Sadly, there was no time for an encore despite the fact that the audience would have gladly stuck around for more.