WASHINGTON, April 4, 2016 – Color Palette is all about creating atmosphere within the prism of a power pop exterior. Just as the band’s name references visual indicators that create a specific mood, the band layers their sound to do the same.
Mood is a key factor in their music in and of itself as it stretches across their set and travels from song to song. In their recent appearance here at DC9, the individual songs stood out on their own even as the set began to blur together to create its own unique musical landscape.
Color Palette has been around for some time now. Realistically, it’s an extension of front man Jay Neymeyer’s previous band, the Silver Liners. Before that band dissolved, they were moving more towards a straight pop sound as Neymeyer’s songwriting skills began to solidify. That evolution continues in Color Palette, but there’s a more textured element to this band’s sound that wasn’t present in any of Neymeyer’s earlier songs.
Watching Color Palette live is a more complex experience than seeing the Silver Liners, which delivered a straightforward pop/rock line-up. Given Neymeyer’s past history, he’ll never abandon that aspect of the show. He’s still a pop artist at his core, and Color Palette still holds on to this when they’re on stage.
But there’s something that’s a bit more esoteric in Color Palette’s shading and approach. Their set captured the strong pop element, but there was something elusive as well, as if their equilibrium was tilted just a bit. Some of this is caused by the band’s stage optics as well as a different approach to their music, including having Maryjo Mattea on vocals alongside Neymeyer.
But the setup appears rather odd on stage, especially at DC9, where the sound never feels like it’s hitting the audience straight on but instead has a way of moving from side to side. Most of this is just an auditory perception of where the band’s sound originates on stage. But given the way that Color Palette creates a virtual chamber of sound, the interplay of their vocals seems at times to originate outside the aura of the vocalists.
That kind of unique subtlety also has a lot to do with the newness of this band, not just in their sound but also their songs. Numbers like “Seventeen” and “Bullets” could easily have been performed as straight ahead guitar driven pop songs, but are recast just enough to feel fresh and new.
Color Palette’s tug and pull between guitar and keyboards causes the band’s sound output to shift constantly within the set, an approach that never feels settled. It’s almost as if they’re trying to decide how to best approach each song as they go, like a studied improvisation in a way. Yet this is not amateur hour. The explorative feel is intentional, almost as it is within a jazz band, resulting in a more evenhanded, mature sound, one that’s fully thought out, fully formed.
There’s always going to be a certain energy and professionalism present in anything Neymeyer undertakes. The set they performed here included songs the band hasn’t been playing for all that long in the grand scheme, and they ultimately felt like fun, modernized synth dance rock.
Maybe that’s the most notable thing about this band. When Color Palette was on stage at DC9, there was a palpable sense of goofy playfulness, deriving in equal parts from the band’s originality and the aura around its members, who were fully aware they were performing these songs as the evening’s headliners, a key goal of any dedicated musician performing in a band.