When: Sun., Dec. 14, 8 p.m. 2014
music | THE BLOW | SUNDAY, DEC. 14
THE PINHOOK, DURHAM—Though it's slipped into slight obscurity much too soon, The Blow's 2006 album, Paper Television, once achieved a low-key ubiquity as a near-certain inclusion at hip house parties. Made by vocalist Khaela Maricich and producer Jona Bechtolt (mastermind of the group YACHT), it pulled heavily from non-rock styles, favored synths over guitars and blurred lines between DIY and studio pop. It seems ahead of its time as well as strictly of that blogger-backed indie rock moment.
Paper Television predicted the wave of crossover laptop pop that arose while The Blow enjoyed an extended hiatus. Grimes' Claire Boucher doesn't name-check them, but given her age and omnivorous pop proclivity, it would make sense for her to have gone through a big Blow phase. But the key difference between those projects is telling: Boucher stacks her voice in uncanny layers, a digital pufferfish effect that makes it seem less human. But Maricich was content appear as a lonely, single self, rendering a vulnerability that tied The Blow to the imperfect voices of twee and post-punk more than modern pop-leaning indie acts.
But Maricich's earnestness in a song like "True Affection" lacks punk's anger or synth-pop's usual aloofness. In that way, The Blow circa 2006 foretold the infiltration of R&B into indie-pop, too. Though Maricich's voice is small, it has soul.
Maricich's warm, wry persona returned for The Blow's self-titled 2013 comeback. But with Melissa Dyne replacing the long-gone Bechtolt, slight tweaks disrupted the delicate balance. Bechtolt's beats had been bigger than the project demanded. Shrinking that scope, as the new duo did for last year's record, emphasized intimacy at the expense of immediacy.
Still, it's unfair to claim Bechtolt is her missing ingredient, because you feel her absence in his YACHT records, too. That band's got an ironic tone that veers perilously close to smugness, a too-clever note that Maricich seldom hits. Suggesting they need each other, Paper Television remains both artists' best work. Prophecy, turns out, can be hard to replicate. 8 p.m., $12, 117 W. Main St., Durham, 919-667-1100, thepinhook.com. —Jeff Klingman