District Sound: Not your average month for indie pop

Small-time artists reign supreme across D.C.’s concert circuit this month, so check out shows at Black Cat and 9:30 Club throughout the end of November.

Minor Alps
Nov. 19 | Black Cat | $20

It’s the mesmerizing vocal harmonies that bring a hypnotic quality to Minor Alps: They’re draped over the haunting, droning quiet bass and gentle pickings of folk guitar in “Buried Plans” and hummed over punk tones in “Mixed Feelings.” The joint venture of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws and indie rock veteran Juliana Hatfield, Minor Alps’ album “Get There” was released in early October, manifesting in a ‘90s garage rock sound. But their style can swing to less aggressive, lighter breeds of rock, with a gentle pep you’d hear from the likes of Death Cab for Cutie.

Key tracks: “Buried Plans,” “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands

Gringo Star
Nov. 21 | Black Cat | $13

If The Kinks were transported to 2013, got drunk with The Strokes and recruited the Arctic Monkeys’ guitarist, I imagine it would sound like Gringo Star. The Atlanta natives draw from an anthology of rock sounds, from melodically ‘60s choruses to gruff, jazzy guitar lines, and peak in their live sets. Their live rendition of “Make You Mine,” driven by loose, grainy vocals, shows the band in a more genuine and impassioned light, unfettered by cheesy music video theatrics they not-so-skillfully employ. Their sound delves into surf and treads on psychedelia, enriched by occasional sparse, pop-y piano licks, but always reorients itself around a playful indie rock tone.

Key tracks: “Make You Mine,” “Shadows

Sky Ferreira and Smith Westerns
Nov. 18 | 9:30 Club | $20

Sky Ferreira’s style signals the rise of new, modern pop singers – ones like Lorde, who tackle contemporary love, desire and insecurity with depth, composure and frankness. Ferreira’s sound is akin to dark ‘80s pop, and her throaty, sultry vocals call to mind Lana del Rey, abandoning brightness and vivacity for a colder tone. Still, Ferreira can drop the edge, with gentler tracks like “Sad Dream” showcasing her vocal range and seldom-observed softness. Accompanying Ferreira’s tour, Smith Westerns draw on the same psychedelic resurgence championed by MGMT, but inject tracks with piercing, Strokes-like guitar and peppy rhythms for a more upbeat and vibrant set.

Key tracks: Smith Westerns: “Weekend,” “Varsity
Sky Ferreira: “Everything is Embarrassing,” “Sad Dream

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