SAN FRANCISCO — One glance at the lineup for the Hazel English-headlined Noise Pop show at the Rickshaw Stop Tuesday, you might see several female-fronted pop acts. But each performer offered a unique sound.
Hazel English met the stage with a humble introduction, but quickly her music gave her a bigger voice than her shy persona. English’s blend of dream-pop, neo-psychedelia and jangly aesthetics made the headliner’s set the most unique of the night. While, in theory, Hazel English’s music sounds incredibly detailed, it’s met with so many sonic details that it fills the room. The spotlights felt almost unnecessary.
Even without odd time signatures a-la American Football, English still found ways to introduce layers of sparkling guitar, one right after another. Driving bass lines and beats gave her songs momentum, but the guitars and vocals added a visceral quality.
English focuses more on soundscapes than songwriting. She tells a story with her music, and while most singer-songwriters think of a nice melody or a crescendo-oriented chorus, she focuses more on the sounds that surround her lyrics. The structure of the song is secondary to the enveloping noise and that’s what made her set special.
Locals Maggie Y/O kicked off the night with a shaky start. The basic rock songs with singer-songwriter sensibilities consisted of softly sung verses that built into dynamic choruses. The lyrics focused on love, be it bitter or sweet. Maggie Y/O was performing for the first time with a lap steel guitarist, but the collaboration seemed unrehearsed. Their left-handed drummer awkwardly performed on a right-handed kit. He missed a lot of punchy cymbal parts as he attempted to bring his left hand to the ride cymbal on the far-right side of the kit.
After Maggie Y/O shuffled off stage, Tanukichan was next. Instead of a singer-songwriter approach, Tanukichan had a much noisier dream-pop sound. Vocalist Hannah von Loon seemed nervous, despite consistently playing shows all over the Bay Area, but it didn’t inhibit her guitar playing. The Rickshaw Stop always has great sound, which makes production-oriented bands sound exponentially better. The bass was sludgy and driving, crackling over the other instruments. Loon cycled between two guitars, but both had a very noisy aesthetic to them, playing upbeat riffs backed with the force of dreamy distortion.
Next up was synth-driven Elsa y Elmar, who came all the way from Colombia to play to their first show for an English-speaking crowd. The songs were all sung in Spanish, but still conveyed meaning. I didn’t feel as though I was missing much by not understand the lyrics.
Everyone other than the bassist was either behind a synth or had some synth attachment to an instrument. Even the drummer used electronic pads. Each musician played his or her parts well. The diversity of synths made the songs diverse, but they were all danceable.