Mankato-based Good Night Gold Dust released their latest EP, It Could Have Been You on Friday. The band stopped by Minneapolis to celebrate the album’s release at Icehouse along with Har-di-Har.
Har-di-Har are husband and wife duo Julie and Andrew Thoreen, who describe their sound as “collage oriented orchestral art-pop.” Julie Thoreen opened the set with a jumbled spattering of plunks on her keyboard. The rest of the band joined in, adding their own improvised guitar plucks and drum kicks to the mix, creating a wash of sound that rose to a clatter before settling into a distinct groove.
Their songs poke fun at traditional musical structures, but the group manages to do so without alienating their audience— rather, they invite the crowd in on the fun. Har-di-Har is the type of band I would want to soundtrack a children’s television show; playful, curious, and always teetering slightly off the edge of normalcy.
Julie and Andrew Thoreen, who are based in the Twin Cities, met Good Night Gold Dust while stopping on tour in Mankato. Both bands have worked with producer Brett Bullion, who has collaborated with a lengthy roster of local musicians including Bad Bad Hats; Now, Now; and Low.
Good Night Gold Dust began as a duo comprising Laura Schultz and Colin Scharf. They have since expanded their lineup to include drummer Michelle Roche and synth player Zach Arney, but Schultz and Scharf remain the principal songwriters of the group. It Could Have Been You exposes the differences in the pair’s styles, with Schultz’s songs centered around vocal hooks and washes of synthesizer and Scharf’s rooted in fiercely strum rhythm guitar.
“These [songs] are full of loss and near-misses,” said Scharf at the beginning of the band’s set. The album’s title comes from a lyric in the song “Second Moon,” which Schultz repeats in a relentless loop. With this album, Good Night Gold Dust seem to be not only nodding to unpredictability, but also learning to embrace it. With three albums under their belt, Good Night Gold Dust have proved that they aren’t afraid to experiment with their sound. It Could Have Been You features auto-tuned vocals, layered synthesizers, and growling guitars.
The performance contained some of the nervous excitement of an album release show, but as their set progressed, Good Night Gold Dust opened up to the crowd. Scharf bobbed around the stage, his body shaking as it channeled the vibrations of his guitar. Schultz radiated a quieter stage presence, closing her eyes or swaying her arms as she crooned into the microphone.
The band mixed in material from their previous albums with songs from It Could Have Been You. After the audience demanded an encore, they capped off the night with the title track from their 2012 album, Towards the Sun. Schultz began the song alone on guitar and vocals, and the rest of the band joined in to support her. The initially stripped-back arrangement gave Schultz room to unleash soaring vocal riffs. Hearing the song live seemed to bring things full-circle for Good Night Gold Dust, as they summed up the celebration of their latest release with a reminder of where they started.