May 11, 2011

The Shivers: The sweet soul music of More

The last thing I expected to hear Saturday night at Backspace here in Portland, Oregon was stirring soul music. Yet that's what Queens' Shivers are dishing out these days. You wouldn't know it from the uptempo synth-driven singles "I Want You Back" and "Used To Be" on the band's latest full-length More, but in front of a live audience, Keith Zarriello transforms into the consummate entertainer and frontman. Dancing and flailing about in manic fashion in a navy blue suit, Zarrielo sunk his teeth into his newest batch of love songs with the urgency, confidence, and class of the soul singers of old: your James Browns, Otis Reddings, and Al Greens. In short, the man was feeling it.

"If you prance around in your underwear, in your underwear, your in your underwear," sung Zarrielo on "Love Is In The Air," emphasizing "underwear" each time with an exaggerated comic force. The songwriter, perhaps most famous for his bare-bones and melancholic epic "Beauty," seems to be going after a looser and more full-bodied sound with More. At least that's the case with "Love Is In The Air," a potent concoction of rhythm and blues that grabs you right in your gut. As splashes of guitar and keyboard slowly build over a bass and drum groove, Zarrielo works himself up into a fervor on the track until he's preaching in falsetto and there's nothing left to do but dance.

Another clear standout, both live and on the record, is "Kisses." Drenched in organ via Jo Schornikow's red Rhodes, the song is an epic slow jam backed with lightly tapped cymbals and a clean-toned electric guitar. The song features a couple of great breakdowns, where the drums and organ quickly move to open and close space around Zarrielo's emotive vocals, dutifully emphasizing his every movement. Schornikow also proved to be a hell of a live performer as she delivered a ferocious solo on the song without ever breaking a sweat.

The story behind More is Zarrielo and Schornikow spent every last penny to record the album at an analog studio in Manchester, England. The warm tone of that recording session is certainly evident throughout the record, as is its intimate nature, as onstage Zarrielo and Schornikow communicate back and forth with nary a word—just a look. In 2011, you'll find few bands and records as sincere, personal, and resonant as the Shivers and More.

The Shivers - "Used To Be" (from More)
The Shivers - "Love Is In The Air" (from More)

The Shivers

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