If you subscribe to the theory that, at heart, all pop music is about sex, think of the New York trio Ivy as your post-coital cigarette. Emotionally elusive and as hard to get a hold of as smoke, the band may call its new Nettwerk album “In the Clear,” but both on disc and on stage at the Troubadour, the band’s appeal is its hazy, refracted languor. The Ivy makes albums that feel like the perfect soundtracks for breakups; it’s music best heard in solitude, which makes the concerts dicey experiences.
Wednesday’s perf didn’t so much project as waft off the stage: the rhythm section hung back, the bass more melodic than rhythmic, the guitars forming curlicues around singer Dominique Durand. Her breathy voice can make lyrics such as “you seemed so dead inside” feel like a come on, but it cuts both ways — she may be the kind of singer who could make brushing your teeth sound sexy, but her Gallic sang-froid at times makes sex sound as exciting a brushing your teeth.
Over the course of their hour-long set, the guitars get louder and the sound turns more unruly, moving from the smooth Euro-disco of “Keep Moving” to “Four in the Morning,” which, with its reedy bassline and caffeinated guitars, moves into New Order territory. But the music never achieves a climactic urgency, so the dreamy romantic finale of “End of the Ocean” feels unearned.
With originality in such short supply these days, you’d hope a band that calls itself Robbers on High Street would steal with a certain amount of verve. But performing just before Ivy, the very young band members looked terribly nervous, like they were waiting for someone to ask if they have receipts for their riffs and melodies.
With time they should learn to better digest their influences and streamline the music, but performing songs from their debut album, “Tree City” (Scratchie/New Line), they come off as too clever, the tunes overstuffed with Beatlesque (by way of the Cars and Squeeze) references.