By Jeremy D. Larson
The first song on Lo-Fang‘s debut LP Blue Film, “Look Away”, closed out the show at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, presented by Radio.com and 4AD. Matthew Hemerlein all but dissipated in the blue light of the small club located in the lower level hotel as he sung “I will never look away/ when you say” as he played a weeping melody on his violin. You’ve never seen a sadder disco ball spinning.
But it was more the mood that Hemerlein wanted to produce that made the disco ball look more like a melancholic signifier than an actual item to get people dancing and twirling. His music slinks and snakes out in the crowd in the way that his upcoming tour-mate Lorde does, bending and curling it into something new. It’s informed by the hush and by the mood of R&B, but, live especially, Lo Fang plays more at pop. It’s meant to be dangerous, but only in a way that supports the mood, not any actual danger.
He opened with just his paper-thin voice singing “Boris” which repeats the line “Yeah you should get out of town, too” insinuating that he might not be able to control himself. From then out it was hypnotic.
(Paul Familetti for Radio.com)
While Hemerlein plays all the instruments on the album, his backing band did a more than able job of filling in for all the many facets of his talent. There’s so much emotion just dripping off each note that he plays, it’s the perfect kind of dampened passion that should open for Lorde, or burst out to become a kind of mood-slinger in the away that The Weeknd or Lana Del Rey does. Although Hemerlein has more control over his own sound, more of a dynamic vision than either of those two.
Bodies swayed in the dark and though the crowd was small and Hemerlein looked tired from a day of also performing “#88” on Letterman, it was like he was ready to deliver the narcotic that we needed. His falsetto soared on “When We’re Fire”, the most energetic track of the night. He’s great in all of his ranges, which are already vast and growing for a guy on his first album. We didn’t get his cover of “You’re the One That I Want”, but that’s fine: this wasn’t anyone else’s show but his.
Lo-Fang’s Blue Film is out now on 4AD. Watch Lo-Fang’s performance on Letterman below: