The White Ravens
There may be hope for this generation of young people. That's the thought that kept going through my head last fall when I first saw the White Ravens. Though still (barely) in my 20s, I was one of the oldest members of the audience at the B-side that night. I waited through five (mostly excruciating) opening acts that ranged from experimental noise to canned bubble pop of the Miley Cyrus ilk. Three hours later, the White Ravens' set was more than a relief. Their exuberant songs with blissfully catchy melodies made me want to dance all night.
Though they play with drummer Vince Russo and guitarist Andrew Brown, the White Ravens are essentially the local brother-and-sister duo of bassist and vocalist Amy Bennett and keyboardist Will Bennett. Will's still in high school and Amy's just started college, but they perform with the stage presence of veteran musicians. (When there was a problem with Amy's bass, she kept singing and switched instruments seamlessly.) Since I saw them last October, their tunes have been in near-constant rotation on my iPod. I can't resist their keyboard-driven pop with its geek chic Schoolhouse Rock vibe, Motown catchiness, and enough electro-rock elements to keep them from being written off as just another indie pop band.
Will's been compared to Ben Folds and Billy Joel, and his killer keyboarding merits the comparison. He pounds the hell out of the instrument, but he keeps to himself on stage, letting Amy be out front. Playing a bass that's bigger than she is, Amy looks like a pristine marzipan model of cool girl rock 'n' roller. Part of me wishes I were just out of high school so we could be pals. And it's not just a look. She's got some stout pipes that sound not only young--in their forcefulness and enthusiasm, mixed with a dash of adolescent anger--but also seasoned, if not quite polished. Although all of the songs are playful and light, the duo plays
with a raw intensity that gives their live shows an extra dose of immediacy.
There are at least six poptastic hits on their new album, Gargoyles and Weather Vanes, that range from the quirky "Atomic Panda" and "Tick Tock" to the utterly irresistible "Sparks." The delightful oo-ee-oo chorus of the latter can give you a Friday high on any day of the week. Though they never abandon their amazing pop sensibility, they do tackle the occasional subdued subject. "Broken Halves" is all about disillusionment with a romantic relationship, but the sentiments don't feel trite or angsty. There's a certain tongue-in-cheek maturity to their lyrics that, blended with their genre-expanding sense of what's possible in pop, could make the White Ravens your new favorite band.
The White Ravens are at the Savoy on Tuesday, September 14 and at the Blind Pig on Wednesday, September 22.
[Originally published in September, 2010.]