It's that time of the year, the time when touring acts on their way either to or from SXSW make a stop in the Triangle to entertain our country bumpkin ears. First up on this evening was Ultimate Painting from the UK...I'd heard of these cats for a little while, and they released a record on the great Trouble in Mind, but this was my first time actually hearing them. The verdict on this four-piece of fancy British lads: a damn fine pop band. The biggest, most immediate influence you hear is the Velvet Underground, especially in the first and last songs of their sets, which were long, stretched out rockers in the vein of VU's "Sister Ray." I also heard dabs of the Zombies, early Teenage Fanclub, and even the Clientele. The sound was very clean, driven mostly by the hollowbody guitar one of the guitarists played, and I was way into it.
All of that was a bonus - I was actually at the gig to see one of the newest Merge signees, Twerps, out of Australia. They also play pretty straight-forward pop music, sounding more like the Kiwi pop of the eighties (the Clean, the Bats, the 3Ds, etc) and occasionally a little bit like Yo La Tengo. With both male and female lead vocals, the set can take on different vibes from song to song, but I dig what both singers are offering. I felt like the dude singer occasionally sounded like Ben Lee, but I'm not sure if he actually sounded like him or my brain was just making the link because both are Australian. The room was decently full (though not packed) for their set, and it seemed pretty well received. I know I was into it - hopefully their being on Merge means they come back and play often, or at least as often as a band from the other side of the world can.