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Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Dan Singer

Back in February 2013, there was no Yeezus or Reflektor. We hadn’t heard a note of new music from Daft Punk, nor had we engaged in a word of discussion about “Blurred Lines” or twerking Miley. Remember these simpler times? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

Autre Ne Veut

It feels like it was decades ago in pop cultural time when Arthur Ashin, best known by his stage name Autre Ne Veut, released his second full-length, Anxiety, in February to much buzz from the music press, including a “Best New Music” stamp of approval from Pitchfork. Thinking about it now, it baffles me that this album seems like ancient history, practically a leftover relic of last year’s futuristic R&B wave led by Frank Ocean and Miguel. The hype cycle could be to blame, as it has been especially intense this year, but I guess that’s just the nature of the beast. Still, 2013’s earliest breakout acts can take comfort in knowing that end-of-year “Best Of” lists could very well remind critics and fans why they took notice in the first place. I hope Autre Ne Veut benefits from these eager list-makers in the coming weeks, and seeing him own the Rock and Roll Hotel stage on Friday proved to me that Anxiety is definitely worth revisiting.

Autre Ne Veut

Ashin was joined onstage by a drummer and a female vocalist who sang harmonies and queued up laptop synth tracks, and this minimal setup smartly put the focus on his impassioned delivery. Live, his voice has a raspy quality to it, but this works in his favor, heightening the emotion and rough edges of his hypnotic love songs. His visual presence also served him well, as he fell to his knees, stood on a piece of furniture to sing some awfully high notes and took a walk through the crowd after getting the house lights turned on. Ashin comes across as a talented, humble guy who thrives off of kineticism, rather than flashy visuals or gimmicks. Even with backing tracks, this was undoubtedly an authentic performance.

Autre Ne Veut

The set began with the gorgeous buildup of “Play By Play,” a song that will likely also end up on a number of “Best Of” lists. From there, Autre Ne Veut ran through an hour’s worth of Anxiety cuts, including single “Ego Free Sex Free” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” which, like the Whitney Houston song of the same name, boasts a wonderful groove. Best of all was the encore “Counting.” Ashin brought up a rapper to drop a verse during the bridge, and I’m pretty sure I could hear more than a few voices in the crowd singing along each time the main hook ascended. It was the perfect way to cap of a solid set from one of the year’s most promising new artists. List-making season will be upon us soon enough, so I suggest you get listening.

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