Atlas Sound / Carnivores / Frank Broyles Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC February 29

Atlas Sound / Carnivores / Frank Broyles Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC February 29
Opening this all-Atlanta show was Frank Broyles, lead singer and guitarist of recently defunct garage rockers Balkans, who actually played on the first part of this tour. Broyles turned in an engaging solo set, accompanying himself with skilful looping and beat box use. Broyles's solo work is more pensive than the relatively straightforward Balkans attack, sounding more like the night's headliner than his former band.

Second to hit the stage were Carnivores, a psych-tinged surf-pop five-piece that upped the energy level quite a bit. Vocally, the band are equal-opportunity, with every member save drummer Ross Politi taking a turn on lead vocals, backed by the other members' harmonies. Keyboardist Caitlin Lang had impressive pipes, coming off like a less warbly Grace Slick, and the set included some above-average theremin wheedling.

The last time Atlas Sound played Vancouver, Bradford Cox had been touring with a backing band, but said band hadn't made it over the border from Seattle to Vancouver, leaving Cox to improvise a shaky solo set. Cox recalled that night less than fondly (having had some trouble holding the crowd's attention) before memorializing the late Trish Keenan of Broadcast, who co-headlined that 2009 show.

Cox now had no trouble holding a couple hundred people in rapt enthrallment. His one-man show made the most of a rare musical talent, as he flitted from guitar to bass to harmonica and drums, adding layers of gauzy sound to his keening voice, before suddenly peeling everything away to a simple acoustic guitar. And that's the magic of Atlas Sound -- new favourites (like "Mona Lisa" from 2011's Parallax) and old ("Shelia" from 2009's Logos) benefit from the project's noisy accoutrements. But when things get stripped down to their essence, what's left is sort of unexpected: the impossibly thin, eccentric Bradford Cox with a guitar and harmonica, playing near-perfect, wistful pop songs.