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Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon, Kevin Morby 

When: Thu., Jan. 23, 9 p.m. 2014
Price: $12
Young Welsh singer Cate Le Bon has never sounded stronger and more assured than she does on her third album, last year’s Mug Museum (Wichita). It’s her first since moving to California, and she definitively leaves behind the influence of Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, two Welsh groups she grew up hearing—and whose members contributed to her previous two full-lengths. Le Bon still relies on the austere clarity of her singing, but her scrappy arrangements, the emotional warmth in her performances, and a rusticity gleaned from British folk all combine to lift her hooky songs into the realm of the sublime. The shapes of her angular guitar lines suggest Tom Verlaine at his most minimal, while Huw Gwynfryn Evans provides bright counterpoint on organ, bass, and guitar, meticulously accenting and shadowing Le Bon’s voice. Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, joins in for a heartrending duet on “I Think I Knew,” where both singers reflect on their senses of isolation (it also includes the memorable line “His eyes are as bold as steam on tepid water”). The album’s back half ratchets up the darkness—“Wild” is propelled by calliopelike distorted organ and clanging electric guitar, and the title track is a stripped-down ballad with only moody piano, droning clarinet, and a squeaking chair. According to the album’s press materials, Le Bon wrote the lyrics with the death of her maternal grandmother in mind, attempting to address how women connect with one another and carry on traditions and ideas within a family. Her words are sufficiently cryptic that I’m not certain how (or even if) she pulls this off, but either way I can’t stop listening. —Peter Margasak Kevin Morby opens.

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