The Essex Green

SXSW live shot

The Essex Green

Antone's, Saturday, March 18

With the exception of two numbers, the first half-dozen songs from this Brooklyn quintet's set list previewed their forthcoming Merge LP, Cannibal Sea. For those who haven't heard Cannibal Sea yet, this was probably an exciting night, because the preview sold it, the band in top shape: Sasha Bell's voice has never been clearer nor sweeter, Jeff Baron's moptop was adorably floppy where his guitar playing was admirably tight, and Chris Ziter played the role of intense frontman with only a few sour notes. Particularly lovely was "I Don't Know Why (You Stay)," which finds the three singers layering their harmonies above a simple rhythm. "Rue De Lis" is Ziter's solo nod to alt.country, an ode to urban pastoralism that strikes the right notes between nostalgia and wide-eyed tourism. A strong set in all, the album preview syncing up perfectly to the festival that's supposed to sell it.

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