The final song on the Aislers Set's new album is called "Melody Not Malaise" and the San Francisco band's performance at the Black Cat on Tuesday night came across like a manifestation of that title: The quintet married the haunting melodic whomp of 1960s girl-groups like the Crystals to the energetic churn of do-it-yourself English post-punk.
While "How I Learned to Write Backwards," the Aislers' latest disc, suffers from a couple of desultory patches where leader Amy Linton's voice drifts aimlessly, there were no such lulls in Tuesday's sprightly 50-minute set. Linton spent the night peering sheepishly from the stage, but sang and played guitar (and occasionally trumpet) with great assurance, mixing songs from "Backwards" with older tunes such as "The Way to Market Station" and "The Red Door," which chimed like lost nuggets from the first wave of indie pop. In the middle of a two-month U.S. tour, the band sounded road-tested tight, and drummer Yoshi Nakamoto and bassist Alice VandenHeuval clicked with an urgency not evident on the group's recordings.
Linton's songwriting currently lacks consistency, but she frequently hits thrilling highs, and the live interpretations of her best new songs -- "Catherine Says," "Through the Shells" and the fabulous "Languor in the Balcony" -- made the Aislers Set seem like some of the most charming U.S. indie-rockers going.
-- Patrick Foster