SOHN and Mr. Little Jeans, who are touring together on a jaunt through the West Coast, have a few things in common. Besides sharing a stage set up of vertically-aligned pulsating LEDs, they’ve both released long-awaited, highly-anticipated debut albums, within a month of each other, after a riding a long wave of well-deserved hype.
SOHN, an Austria-based solo electronic DJ whose real name is Christopher Taylor, brought along two touring bandmates, Albin Janoska on synths and Stefan Fallmann (bass), while Norwegian dance-pop chanteuse Monica Birkenes also brought along a duo of supporting musicians whose identity remains a mystery.
That might be where the similarities end, however. Birkenes is often compared to Lykke Li or Charlie XCX when writers try to articulate her style. However, there’s an endearingly childish innocence about her that would reveal itself at the end of the set.
After working through a bulk of the material from her debut album, Pocketknife, charming the audience with a sweet, soulful rendition of “Rescue Song,” and peaking with a cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” something Birkenes initially became famous for in 2011, Mr. Little Jeans ended with the slightly nervous singer asking the audience the following: “can I take a picture of you guys? Is it too cheesy if I take it on an iPad?” The audience happily obliged and she took this shot.
Where Mr. Little Jeans was upbeat and poppy, SOHN brought an edge of haunting darkness, vulnerability, and raw emotion that separates him from many of the other electronic artists in his sphere. The stage went dark, save for a few ceiling strobes, while the LED display, which was rearranged to completely envelop the three musicians in icy hues of blue, white, and pale yellow light, complemented the intensity of his lyrics and vocal range.
There was occasional eye contact, and nods toward Janoska and Fallman, but for the most part, SOHN was completely immersed in delivering the full range of emotional impact that colors every track on his debut full-length, Tremors. However, the man isn’t without a sense of humor and is observant of his audience, to say the least: “Last time I was in San Francisco, I was at Rickshaw Stop. You guys were drunk…you still are.” The crowd erupted into a roar of approval and he continued on.
Of course, there was an encore and after the final song, his break out “The Wheel,” he emerged from behind his deck, stood in front of the mesmerized audience, and clapped along with them in unison. Witness the magic in the video below.
Overall, Mr. Little Jeans is a charming talent and definitely an artist to watch. SOHN, on the other hand, has honed his talents working with other high-profile artists (Disclosure, Lana Del Rey) and has released what will surely be considered one of the best albums of the year. There was definitely a reason, out of two artists who released their debut this year, he headlined and will only need to adjust to performing in bigger venues as his career progresses.