Givers, XOYO, London


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Afro-pop folk band Givers don't have a slogan, but if they did it would be "It's nice to be nice". The singers, Taylor Guarisco and Tiffany Lamson perform with the emphatic smiles of drama school children in panto. Their music is uplifting; to watch them is like watching happy Muppets dancing around, on ecstasy. They're aggressively happy – they bounce, and wiggle and gyrate and smile a lot. They even use the break between songs to tell us how much they love London ("I love that you drive on the left here. I really do," says Lamson).

Maybe it's because they're from Louisiana, they've been raised on sunshine and Cajun music, not muted summers and stodge. In the band's first single, "Up Up Up" – a glorious, effervescent number with African influences – you can almost feel the heat of the sun as you listen. It's warming and uplifting, but the other tunes from their debut album, In Light, just don't match up to that single.

The band's blog says "We've put our hearts, souls, everything – into this record", but in performance it's very hit and miss. Many songs seem disjointed, like two or three different tunes put together. "Noche Nada" has two halves. It starts as fun indie-pop, then the electric ukulele takes over and it sounds rocky. On the album, it works to build the energy of the song, but it's more dramatically disconnected when played live.

The twinkly xylophone in "Ceiling of Plankton" sounds folky and joyful, with echoes of ska music. It ends with the confusion of drumming present at the end of most of their songs. The lyrics are engagingly visceral – guts and bleeding hearts feature heavily, yet it still maintains a feeling of joy.

There is one sad song in the set: "Go Out at Night", a happy-sounding song about being sad. Here, Lamson suddenly stops grinning, she curls into a ball and hits the floor with her fists. It's unnecessarily theatrical.

Givers have been likened to Mystery Jets and Vampire Weekend but their layers of funk, Cajun and other influences from Louisiana – like zydeco music (a type of bluesy-folk music ) give them the potential for something more imaginative. Sadly, their focus on grinning and jumping around means that live, they never reach the magic that's hinted at on their album.