Life’s Minor Milestones, Served in Lush Detail Boy, Joined by Deniz Erarslan, at Joe’s Pub
March 3, 2013
By JON PARELES
Of course, in 2013, a group called Boy is a duo of women: Valeska Steiner, from Zurich, and Sonja Glass, from Hamburg, Germany. But any subterfuge ends there. Boy writes and sings tuneful, friendly, forthright pop-folk songs about life and relationships. The songs detail small milestones: moving into a new apartment, working as a waitress, partying, flirting, fending off unwanted advances, savoring friendship and love. The lyrics are in idiomatic American English, cradled by melodies with a comfortable lilt and by Ms. Steiner’s sweet, unfailingly precise lead vocals. Boy’s songs make sleek craftsmanship sound guileless.
At Joe’s Pub on Friday night Boy was making a belated New York City debut; its album, “Mutual Friends,” is newly released here but has been available in Europe since 2011. The album’s studio production echoes “The Reminder” by Feist, playfully deploying instruments like banjo or clarinet along with a band; there’s also a Feist-like flutter in Ms. Steiner’s voice, particularly in the album’s bouncy first single, “Little Numbers.” But Feist has moved on, and Boy makes the most of what she left behind.
At Joe’s Pub, Boy performed as a trio, with Deniz Erarslan on electric guitar (and a tambourine on a drum pedal); Ms. Glass played guitar or keyboard and sang harmonies, while a computer sometimes supplied a drumbeat. The folky settings made the songs even more approachable.
“Skin” was a gently strummed depiction of a night spent dancing, “where there’s no need to talk because the music is so loud,” and the loneliness that follows it: “You can get out of this party dress/But you can’t get out of this skin.” And “July,” with Mr. Erarslan playing hovering lines on a lap steel guitar, was a promise of sanctuary:
All the falls and flights
All the sleepless nights
All the smiles and sighs
They brought you here
They only brought you home.
Boy’s songs may be destined for romcom soundtracks; they are determinedly benign. “Boris” — in which a leering man notes “Your boyfriend is out of town” — works up the only bit of rancor, with the singer replying, “You should get out of town too.” Yet for all the kindliness in the songs, Boy rarely simpers or resorts to clichés. Boy brings a pastry chef’s skill to its music; there’s structure behind the sweetness.