Pop Minimalism Perfected: SALES Play The Loft

Guitarist Jordan Shih rocking alongside new drummer of SALES’ 2016 touring season. (Tahiez Toro / The Triton)

Indie pop duo SALES returned to The Loft for the second time on November 10. Many indie bands have passed through UCSD, but not many have passed through twice: perhaps their successful, sold-out return speaks to their universal appeal.

To describe SALES is to describe the numerous artists and genres that their sound is definitely based on: the mellow bliss of Beach House, the stripped-back, atmospheric pop of The xx, and the warm, lo-fi recording techniques of basement bands everywhere. Their music has a sentimental charm, often featuring soft twinkling guitars and crooning vocals by Lauren Morgan. The night was bound to feel like a mellowed-out meandering through the stars.

I sipped a sour beer with some friends at the bar in the back of The Loft while we waited for SALES to take the stage; the energy of the room was warm and welcoming, and we waded towards the stage as the first band came up to perform. Tangerine opened the evening with a collection of grooving, quirky pop tunes that was a breath of summer in the dark autumn night. The track “Feel This Way” captures the feeling of hazy days spent in sunshine and the company of friends, while “Nothing Better” expresses youthful whimsy and lit up The Loft with its sunny-day, reverb-soaked guitar pop. Tangerine smiled and joked with each other and the audience–it wasn’t difficult to imagine them writing their songs around a bonfire in late June, swigging red wine and watching the evening sky fade from orange to black.

SALES came on stage not long after, to the delight of the audience. While they plugged in their guitars and tuned up, Morgan took to the microphone and reminded us about their promise to come back to the Loft, now fulfilled. While their performance last year was lackluster and unfocused (Morgan conceded as such, and admitted that some of the songs were made up on the spot), the audience was excited to see how much they had matured.

From the first chord, I could sense the change: Morgan sang confidently, and freely swayed around the microphone as she played guitar. Jordan Shih played expertly-timed bass that pulsated through the venue and gave a backbone to SALES’ more minimal compositions. Not a single note was out of place the entire evening. Their dedication to improvement wasn’t just a couple more hours in the practice room. It was a months-long transformative process that finally brought their performance abilities up to par with their studio recordings, a feat not many young bands achieve.

They started strong by playing tracks off of their new album, SALES LP, occasionally bringing back some older, more well–known songs from their 2014 EP.  “Big Sis” and “Jamz” from the new LP showcased Morgan’s best Victoria Legrand impression. SALES ended the night with their biggest hit, “Chinese New Year”, which had been requested by the audience throughout the entire performance. Morgan’s perfect eighth-note melodies rang out in the room as the final track reached its peak, and the audience grooved slowly and beamed at the band as they performed. The night slowed to an end, and we all lined up to talk with the musicians who had just cast a spell on the room.

Oliver Engel is a contributing writer of the Arts and Entertainment section for The Triton. He can be reached at oengel@ucsd.edu.