Oh, early summer. That time of year when we dance ’til we drop at outdoor music festivals, stay up way too late on weeknights and question if we ever could leave NY. Newly infected with sunshine-induced optimism, we Sofar NY’ers scaled the steps to a fifth floor Soho walk-up, squeezing in with 60 other newly tanned music fans, for a chance to hear the very best up-and-coming bands.
First up was the aptly named Superhuman Happiness, featuring futuristic bleeps and bloops that faded into tinny guitar, muted horn and upbeat vocal lines. This curious mish-mash of musical talent was a literal juggling act of instruments and techniques, on one hand featuring a certain island sway, on the other sounding like the perfect band for an 80s houseparty. But within the group’s remarkable range, there was one consistent element: seriously catchy intro & outros, no matter the song’s particular style.
Next came Sofar second-timers Poor Remy, a bit more twangy than when we saw them last. The trio’s energy is distinctly high—in their own words, they “yell about [their] feelings.” But rather than an angsty teenage sound, their charmingly peculiar movement and gravely tenors meld in a modern folk style—and we’re loving watching this young band come into their own.
Morgan O’Kane was slated next, bringing along NOLA cellist Leyla McCalla as a special guest. She kicked off their four song set with a beautifully arranged and moving setting of Langston Hughes’ “Girl.”
From there they launched into O’Kane’s signature style, with the help of guitarist Ezekiel Healy and spoon-player Liam Crill. In O’Kane’s hand the banjo becomes a mode of transcendence, accompanied by a rocking foot stomping that mesmerizes any onlooker. The addition of Crill’s unusual spoonwork brought an additional level of authenticity to the group’s homespun style, a sort of secular seance for a simpler place and time.
As for the finale, we were graced by Belgium’s own Milla Brune, an established European talent just breaking into the American music scene. If her voice is soft, it doesn’t lack for power—with an agility and soulful depth that most pop singers would envy. Brune shared the inspiration for one song in particular, “Precious,” inspired by a little girl who Brune struck in a came-out-of-nowhere car accident (Happily, the little girl recovered.) Touching in its recognition of the fragility of our day-to-day existence, the song demonstrated the best of Brune’s storytelling, reflective wisdom written into each line.