The blinding debut of Palace -- a rare harmony-driven, unapologetically effervescent pop group in St. Louis -- gets its welcome to the world on Friday at the Gramophone. The four-piece is planning more than tunes: singer/keyboardist/tambourine-ist Jamie Finch tells us to expect, "anything you ever wanted at your birthday party when you were a kid. Except a live pony. I don't think the Gramophone would appreciate that too much." There will, however, be pin the tail on the (fake) donkey, pinatas, balloons and potentially much more: streamers, face paint and temporary tattoos are all on the table. The band will also be giving away gift bags for everyone at the door -- five of them will contain the album. Which, by the way, is the subject of Christian Schaeffer's Homespun review this week. Listen to "I'm Still Learning" and read Schaeffer's review below.
The Palace Album Release Show is this Friday, October 21st at the Gramophone. Tickets are $5 ($3 minor surcharge) and the show starts at 8 p.m.
"I'm Still Learning" by Palace
The new indie-pop quartet Palace works best in twos: The band is made up of two men and two women, it employs two keyboardists, and lead vocal duties are shared between Matt Kavanagh and Jamie Finch. There's safety in numbers, and that helps the band make big-sounding songs out of a few simple parts. On the St. Louis music spectrum, Palace falls somewhere between the emotionally loaded shout-singing of the long-dormant Gentleman Auction House and the virginal nursery-rhyme indie rock of Scarlet Tanager. The singers' paired vocals -- which are often gleefully accompanied by drummer Danny Hill and keyboardist Sydney Scott -- recall the sing-songy stickiness of twee, though there's much more full-throated soul alongside the burbling keys and twinkly glockenspiel. It's a strong, confident first outing from a band that has both the pop smarts and the rock know-how to make these songs stand up instead of quickly deflating.
With an onslaught of handclaps, cooing harmonies and a cathedral's worth of clanging bells, opening cut "Summer Don't You Dare" may ensnare you with bright hooks and classic harmonies...or it may give you a caffeine headache. But Palace doesn't trade in subtleties (and its grandiose name just might elicit a cease-and-desist letter from Will Oldham and his Palace Songs/Brothers/Music monikers.) While big-hearted pop is the order of the day, the mood isn't always so effervescent, as the duet "Weight of the World" gives some tuneful gravitas to the eight-song disc. With the heavily reverberated guitars and low, distant drums knicked from the Walkmen, both Kavanagh and Finch give ever-escalating vocal performances. "Show and Tell" brings in some schoolyard clamps and stomps alongside Kavanagh's strident Freddie Mercuryisms, and the song's alternating waltz tempo and ska upticks recall a more loose-limbed Ra Ra Riot. That synthified, dance-punk vibe closes out the disc with the extended chorus of "Neighborhood Kid," which gives Finch another chance to showcase her vibrant vox. These eight songs show both a well-defined sound and a willingness to aptly tinker with a handful of genres. That's a good start for a young band.