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Hoops w/ Parts

Jun 02, 2017

Thursday night was the first time that Michigan synth-pop duet PARTS played in Minneapolis. It was also my first time seeing Hoops, and my first time actually sitting down during a concert to write a review—truly a night of firsts at the 7th Street. Both groups had a polished sound and gave memorable performances. 

PARTS

I’ll admit that I haven’t been to many “synth heavy” concerts, so I was completely off guard when those beats were so phat that the vibrations caused my glass of ice water to slide right off the bar and onto some unsuspecting concert goers. That was enough to convince me that PARTS is the real deal. 

PARTS is a synth-pop duo from Grand Rapids, Michigan consisting of Marley Ferguson and Alyssa Midcalf. After touring with Hoops for about a month, they played their final show with the band last night here in Minneapolis. While the duo’s heavy full ranged synth tones definitely drew on 80’s new wave (i.e. The Cure, New Order), PARTS has a distinctly modern sound that more closely resembles Beach House or Chvrches. Simple, yet powerful. Their powerful droning synth motifs were punctuated by a punchy, industrial sounding 808. But the standout moments in their set all occurred when Midcalf’s rich alto pierced through the full ranged synth tones or when Ferguson’s soprano flickered on above the melody. Their lyricism reminded me vaguely of Lorde but with the moodier edges of Lana Del Rey or even The 1975 (but with better personality all around). Midcalf’s vocals sounded effortless on the standout track “Flowers” from their 2016 EP.

You can listen to their latest release here:


Hoops

As part of my background research for Hoops, I looked at their “Hoops Fav Songs” playlist on Spotify, of which the first song is Matthew Wilder’s hit single Break My Stride, which happens to be one of the best songs ever. They scored points with me for that. 

That aside, Hoops has been making baskets left and right (swisshhhh) since their conception in Drew Auscherman’s bedroom in 2011, and their new LP Routines is a very fun album to listen to and has received a lot of favorable attention for its mature lo-fi sound and captivating lyricism. So, I was really looking forward to their show, and they didn’t disappoint one bit.

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In addition to the core members of Hoops—Auscherman on guitar and keys, Kevin Krauter on bass, Keagan Beresford tickling the synth—they are joined on tour by James Harris on drums and fellow Bloomington musician Jack Andrews on second guitar. Andrews, Krauter, and Auscherman collaborated on playful and glittery guitar harmonies that created an enthralling, extroverted sound on tracks like “Rules” and the sole instrumental track of the night, “Benjals”. But I also found that Hoops would loop around on tracks like “On Letting Go” and “On Top” and double down on a more reflective and bold melody—at times riding on a psychedelic vibe. 

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I’m a choir dude at heart (wow that’s embarrassing statement), and the vocals were the highlight of the performance. When listening to their album, their EP, and earlier releases, there was enough tasteful distortion and reverb to make me think there was one main vocalist and a backup in Hoops, yet that is obviously not the case. Co-frontmen Auscherman, Krauter, and Beresford all write the songs and pass the vocals back and forth, and they really shine when all three of their dreamy chanting vocals come together like they did on “4u Pt. 2”. Their sound reminded me of being simultaneously in a planetarium and an opium den, with the guitar backing the three-part vocals, and the synth swirling above on the last song of the night “La La La”.

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Standout song: “On Top”

“This song is about being happy,” and the effortless vocals and dancing melody didn’t betray the complex and very topical lyrics “Well it feels like every morning / When you try to start the day / Something comes to bum you out / Keeps your mind from thinking straight”. In an age when I can’t remember a morning when I didn’t stumble upon a piece of news or something else that really bummed me out, it is nice to be reminded that even in this “foolish paradise,” if you “Put in your time you’ll come out on top”!

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A very streamlined sound, with enough variation to keep everyone jumping throughout the show, and steady enough that when it was over it left me wanting more.

Andy Schoonover 

Photos by Sylvia Jennings