Men I Trust bring dream pop, funky melodies to Madison

Men I Trust's music, as well as the performers, made listeners feel comfortable, like they were happily jamming to friends of their own at a show in some guy’s basement.

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Alexa Johnson

The ideal way to listen to indie pop band Men I Trust involves lying in the grass looking up at the sky as it shifts from blue to pink to purple during the sultry golden hour and then getting up and dancing, just you and your headphones. The band took me, and it appeared the entire High Noon audience, to this euphoric place at their Thursday night show.

Dream pop is the perfect way to describe the Canada-based group’s style. Guitarist and vocalist Emma Proulx, with her fairy-like white-blonde hair and smooth, mystical voice, led the audience on a journey through their performance from the start. She was joined by her three bandmates as they somehow blended together the unlikely vibes of calming rhythms and grooving, heel-tapping beats.

The music, as well as the performers, made listeners feel comfortable, like they were happily jamming to friends of their own at a show in some guy’s basement. The band swayed to their tunes and grinned at each other during each song, like they were just some of our old pals hanging out, happy to show us what they can do.

The band released their new single, “Show Me How,” earlier this year, along with a self-directed music video. This is one of few songs to drop in a while; they released a couple singles in 2016 and 2017, but have not released an album since 2015’s Headroom. They started their Madison set with “Break for Lovers,” a track from the 2015 full-length.

Simple, funky melodies backed Proulx’s subdued, enchanting vocals. From the start, the crowd was infected with calmness, a feeling that lingers today as I listen (and re-listen) to Men I Trust’s entire discography. Proulx simultaneously plucked psychedelic, swelling notes on her guitar — a signature of hers that stuck through the set, but was particularly highlighted in “Show Me How,” a song they played just before the show’s close.

They also played tracks from their four-year-old self-titled album, making “Stay True” and “Dazed” the centerpieces of their set. These sandwiched what I thought was the pinnacle of the show and their best song, "Lauren," because of the way you can’t help but groove to it. In these songs, the funk roots of their music fully emerged and morphed into a new kind of electro-pop jam. Here Proulx’s vocals showed hints of jazz; she played with her voice to create a new and raw sound, maintaining an echoey, quiet volume that occasionally became notes she pulled deeply out of herself, flowing seamlessly with the music with each beat.

Behind the band’s greatness seems to be simplicity — the songs uncomplicated, Proulx’s vocals reserved. They’re genuine people, smiling and just enjoying playing on stage. Their only talking break involved Proulx sweetly apologizing for the French-speakers' poor English, saying “Some days, my body just doesn’t feel like speaking English.” Afterward, they stepped off stage and humbly thanked people who praised the show.

One can only hope the handful of singles dropped over the last couple years and their 2018 tour hints at a soon-to-come new album and a future return to Madison.

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