Live Review: Charlie Hilton with Phaedra at Barboza 2/11/16

Local Music, Live Reviews
02/15/2016
Gerrit Feenstra
all photos by Brittany Feenstra

Portland singer Charlie Hilton and her band Blouse have consistently found themselves in KEXP's watch list for rising talent. Blouse played Iceland Airwaves back in 2012 behind their first record, then toured extensively behind Imperium, their second, including a great stint with Dum Dum Girls. This year, Charlie branches out for her first solo record, Palana, out last month for Captured Tracks. Herein, Charlie not only continues to prove herself as a fantastic songwriter, but also debuts a complicated and highly relatable character, Palana, who this week, we got the divine opportunity of getting to see live for the very first time. On Thursday night at Barboza, Charlie Hilton and her current supporting band made their live debut, kicking off a West Coast tour of five dates. And with Seattle duo Phaedra kicking things off, Charlie's Palana live debut couldn't have been more mystifying.Seattle synth pop duo Phaedra have been on the rise for the last couple years, culminating in a delicious and free four track EP this past fall in partnership with clothing company Kit & Ace. Phaedra float inside the same spectral bubble as acts like Purity Ring and Grimes, laying fantastical lyrics and prominent vocals over hip-hop induced electronic beats. The pair kicked off the energy at Barboza in excellent fashion, playing through their EP and some new material (one track of which I swear samples the fairy voices from Ocarina of Time), kicking off a night of siren songs with a bang.

Phaedra:

Phaedra

Phaedra

Phaedra

Charlie Hilton's Palana exists in a universe entirely separate from her flagship band, Blouse. With this release, the Portland songwriter chose to make something incredibly personal, taking its namesake from Charlie's Sanskrit birthname, and detailing (over the course of 10 or so songs) the present state of atmosphere in which Hilton finds herself. The record goes from punchy ("Pony") to sweet ("100 Million") to longing ("Long Goodbye") to floating ("Funny Anyway") and everywhere in between. It's a record that feels well inhabited by its narrator. Instead of telling stories or persuading the listener to a point of view, Palana offers an impressionistic snapshot of a woman in constant state of movement. It's a beautiful and haunting piece of work.

Even with a change in setlist and presentation, the wispiness of Hilton's stage personification remains. Much as she is with Blouse, here, she's a spirit from another time and another place, swaying to and fro in swanky 70s garb with a mod bob bouncing along to the beat. Alternating between a bright pink Telecaster Thinline and woodblock, Charlie navigated her new album in her most commanding and solitary presentation yet. And still, she occupies a safe distance, balanced cleanly somewhere in a celestial consciousness, apart from the weight of the world and any tether to pull her down. Making her way through most of Palana along with two yet unheard songs, Charlie floated forwards and through the room, haunting every one of us with warm and subtle grace. Her backing band sounds fantastic, consisting of Arian Jalali also of Blouse, plus drummer Thomas Mabus and Nathan Weber. Ending her set with Palana cut "The Young", she sings softly, balancing melancholy and perspective with a cool confidence and a wayward smile. "All our work will travel on and leave us nothing to drink from. But this is not the time to be alone and worry - it might mean something to the young." Maybe it will, Charlie, maybe it will.

Charlie Hilton:

Charlie Hilton

Charlie Hilton

Charlie Hilton

Charlie Hilton

Palana is out now on Captured Tracks. Grab "Pony" for free on KEXP's Song of the Day podcast!

Related News & Reviews

Capitol Hill Block Party Local Music

Capitol Hill Block Party 2016: Initial Lineup Announced!

Summer's gonna be steamy! The initial lineup for this year's Capitol Hill Block Party was announced this morning, and it's hot! On Friday, July 22nd through Sunday, July 24th, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, celebrates the festival's 20th anniversary!


Read More
Live Reviews

Live Review: Dr. Dog with Hop Along at Neptune Theatre 2/5/2016

Even for a band that’s made a career out of reinterpreting styles from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, Dr. Dog’s latest release, Psychedelic Swamp, (ANTI- Records), is more meta you might think. The album is a rehashing of their first unreleased demo, originally recorded in 2000, and as such, it m...


Read More
Local Music Music That Matters Audioasis

Music That Matters: Sound Off! 2016

Check out some of the KEXP DJ’s favorite artists from the Pacific Northwest and around the world on-the-go. KEXP’s Music That Matters weekly podcast brings you an exclusive mix of new music from the world’s best independent artists.


Read More
Live Reviews

Live Review: Super Furry Animals, Dead Meadow at the Neptune Theatre 2/6

When it comes to Britpop, Super Furry Animals are truly a whole 'nother beast. Though they tend to get lumped in with bands like Pulp (who were an early champion of SFA) and Blur, the Furries are a unique animal, bending genres and breaking boundaries throughout their 20 year career. The band wen...


Read More
Click anywhere to return to the site