The 1900s — not to be confused with Franz Ferdinand-spawning dance punks 1990s— had their van broken into before playing an early show to a slim afterwork crowd last night, despite having not played in NYC for nearly two years. To add to it, there were one or two cries to "play an oldie" from the crowd, prompting numerous thank you's from the band for coming out so early, comments about how much fun they were having that sounded more like defeated, half-hearted jokes, and repeated apologetic acknowledgment that, yes, they were playing material from their new album.
But then they would start in on some ornately crafted pop number that warmly wraps around 30 years of indie-rock signposts, and you have to wonder why they'd ever feel the need to apologize. The 1900s aren't as popular as they should be, having only seen mild blog recognition with the singles "Office" and "Georgia" from their last albums, but the vocals alone are enough for you to take note. Frontman Edward Anderson looks like an indie-rock cowboy and is a devoted singer — he doesn't speak or shout, as it's so popular to do these days, but actually adheres his creamy vocals to a melody, rising an octave at the end of almost every word. Duties are split with Jeanine O'Toole, a feathery-voiced Carly Simon in Workout Barbie getup, and harmonized with two female multi-instrumentalists that melt hearts. Together, their voices form a steady focal point as the outfit strikes a balance between gritty Velvet Underground guitars, the coy hooks of Belle & Sebastian, the country-tinge of Camera Obscura, and the earnest appeal of 70s soft rock. Tomorrow, they play at The Rock Shop. You should go. Please.