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Ali McGhee has a Ph.D. in English...
This Thursday, the Greenland-based band Nive & the Deer Children come to the Altamont Theatre. Their music, characterized by haunting beauty, childlike whimsy, and a nigh-unbelievable aesthetic that seems borne of icy folklore, makes them an act like no other. The band's website attempts to describe the sound as "original hummable folk melodies with a streak of vocal jazz, or cowboy ballads with an elfin side." They're opening for Reed Turchi & the Caterwauls, along with Chris Milam. The show starts at 8 pm.
Frontwoman Nive Nielsen is a cultural ambassador for her native country of Greenland, and it's clear why once you listen to her folksy, fairy-infused songs. Nive is a fascinating person and an incredible artist: she's a member of the Inuk indigenous group whose first show was for the Queen of Denmark, and she was also in the Hollywood film The New World alongside Colin Farrell.
All that is to say, she's more interesting than most people even without the music. But the music is clearly where her efforts lie now, luckily for us. Songs are about everything from physical landscapes to landscapes of the heart, and Nive's lilting voice rises above it all as droning guitar, percussion, and her ukulele alternately shade and brighten the edges of each song. Her voice can be tremulous or strong, breathy or fierce all in the same song, and her band--the Deer Children--build on her unique sound and create an overall style that is like nothing else. She sings in multiple languages that range from English and Danish to Faerie.
Her latest album with the Deer Children, Feet First, features guest appearances from bands and artists that include Arcade Fire, Elf Power, Tom Waits, and the Black Keys. It's a lilting, expressive, and magically transportative piece of work. Opening with the intertwining sounds of "Still the Same," a meditation on love past that starts with soft guitar and vocals and breaks into a full, jangly song complete with woodwinds, brass, and a rollicking drum beat.
The album is compelling throughout, even when I don't understand what Nive is saying, such as in the breathy "Tulugaq." Other songs, like "Slip," shift Nive's sound and are reminiscent of some indie rock greats like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Towards the end of the record, "Grandma Marie" is waltz-infused and steeped in nostalgia. The album is lovely and transfixing, and it makes me even more excited to see Nive and the Deer Children live.
Reed Turchi & the Caterwauls headline the evening with their distinctive blues-rock sound. Equal parts rough vocals and smooth guitar slides, they infuse their music with the stick sweetness of deep summer. Chris Milam rounds out the lineup with his haunting, captivating, and catchy melodies. His most recent album, Kids These Days, is a beautifully vulnerable creative expression of Milam's feelings after the end of his engagement.
There are a variety of ticket options, from VIP seating (first three rows) for $20, $10 in advance for general admission, and $12 at the door. Get there early -- doors open at 7 pm. Tickets here.