In the crowded Music Hall of Williamsburg last Tuesday night, a low hum of sociable chatter bounced off of the concrete walls and warmed up the stage. As part of their 7th annual concert series, Steve Madden kicked off the first of five shows with alternative pop newcomers Marian Hill and a fresh-faced Ezi, who held her own without any official releases to her name and zero shows under her belt.
Marian Hill, the electro-pop duo hailing from Philadelphia, provided nothing short of pure and innovative RnB vocals mixed with fresh and moody beats. Named “The most Shazam’d band in America” by Rolling Stone after having their breakthrough single “Down” featured on a recent Apple ad that premiered in January, the duo immediately shot into success.
Comprised of Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd, the two childhood friends collaborated to create 2013’s Play EP and 2015’s Sway EP, both featuring their signature sultry sound. Samantha’s vocals ooze out of the luscious landscape Lloyd provides with smartly placed pops and synths complemented with Steve Davit’s saxophone playing.
That sensuality that defines the duo and hooks you in is what carried the night’s show. Samantha strutted onstage in her black leather crop top and harem pants, with her long blonde locks trailing behind her. Jeremy took position behind his soundboard and the lights dimmed. The opening track, their hit single “Down”, begun with a harrowing piano intro interrupted by Gongol’s crisp vocals. As the bass kicked in the chorus, the room shook. Lloyd expertly sampled and spliced Gongol’s vocals into its own instrument, utilizing it to repeat the track’s title as the room swayed.
From there, the duo dove into their debut studio album, Act One, front to back. The sleazy saxophone in “Talk to Me” partnered with Gongol playfully teasing “You know I know you’ve been restless,/I know you know you could get this”. “Bout You” was a slow, painful ode to the pain of an old lover, made real through Gongol’s innocent tone in her voice and her striking stare.
Perhaps the highlight of the night, “I Know Why”, showcased Marian Hill’s spectacular power as a duo to create such a haunting atmosphere. In between Act One‘s empowering female-driven sexual fantasies and mournful trips down memory lane with past lovers is this stand out track. The song dives deep into the mind of an uncertain girl seeking space from her lover only to find out she is still hung up on an old flame. The song’s minimalistic piano intro slowly built into a lush soundscape of clicks and synths in the chorus which filled the room as Gongol slithered around onstage.
As the night closed out, the intimate venue sent the duo off with a warm goodbye. As the current band to watch, Marian Hill shows versatility and grace through your headphones and onto the stage. Their 2017 tour kicks off on May 22nd at Brooklyn Steel.
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