I have a strong predilection for female-lead bands. From Blondie to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, there is no denying the power of a woman backed by another four or five musicians, driving the strongest parts of the female voice to the forefront. Firehorse‘s show at the intimate Glasslands showcased women’s voices, from mild to dark, and everywhere inbetween.
Opening band I Am Lightyear fits neatly into the soft but melancholy sounds of Rilo Kiley, with a touch of early Alanis. A mix of small electronic touches amidst catchy melodies. The band has no real affectation, and made clear decisions you’d expect with a much more mature band. I especially like the three-part harmonies they rolled out later in their set. Lead singer Lauren Zettler sets a driving pace without rushing through the songs, and the band kept up admirably.
Kicking up the tempo a bit, White Prism had a dark but smooth sound akin to a raucous Ladytron. Mentioning a recent stint in LA, their sound reflected some of the better dark sentiments of the sunny place. Two synths, a xylophone (which are back in a big way, apparently), and an insistent bass round out a sound that puts a toetapping beat to your melancholy. It helps that one of the band members looks like a barefoot Frank Zappa. Their only big misstep was an unnecessary auto tuned track and a ballad, strained attempts to sentimentalize their sound. Really, their two female voices are strong enough to ignore most conventions of electropop singles. For instance, “Fool” (inspired by Paula Abdul) is a great showcase of all the central conceits of the band. Fun but sad, with the kind of beats and dark rock that elevates the audience.
Firehorse, lead by Leah Siegel, is a wonderful crossroads of genres and styles. Coming from a background of jazz and religious music, she manages to straddle most of modern music with her own take on almost everything. She started with a fun post-punk piece, gritty and soft at the same time; “Good Girl.” Next, the band railed into a mix of noise, funk, and pop that overlapped with a lot of psych pop (like Alt-J) on the market today. Still, each track has Leah’s signature on it, a sort of meticulous recklessness. You expect her musical choices to go off track or get lost, but they always weave back into a believable sound. All the while, her seductive, loud voice gives the band an unmistakable energy.
Later, with “Machete Gang Holiday” Firehorse was able to tap into the fun of power pop, followed immediately by “Wave,” a keyed-up ballad of strength. Each track conveys need without being needy, even approaching a kind of dance music for absinthe drinkers. The show ended with “Our Hearts,” the single from the debut LP, a bold invective against stagnation and depression. “Our bodies weren’t big enough for all our hope, our hearts were on fire.” Firehorse is talented and original, yes, but I’d also like to convey that they are simply good. They make music with a capital “M,” and make it seem much less difficult than it actually is. Leah Siegel is the fulcrum of this impression.