Sarah St. Albin w/ My Cartoon Heart and Tobias the Owl
Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA

Beleaguered by the cold and tired from springing forward to daylight-saving time, the Seattle faithful came to Sunset Tavern to be revived by music. they filtered into the beloved local venue to celebrate the release of Sarah St. Albin’s EP, Small Voice, reaffirming the city’s dedication to the music scene. They were rewarded by a three-set show that thrummed with warmth.

Tobias the Owl opened the night with their five pieces, including light percussion from a cajón. The sound was surprisingly big, even while the setup lent itself to an intimate set. Guided by frontman Elijah Dhavvan’s deep, resonating voice, a violin accompaniment and Anna Steinle’s vocals helped intertwine the highs and lows as they played music of a cozy melancholy.

They lined up across the stage, and produced a rich and tender sound for a growing crowd. Sarah St. Albin’s guitarist, Eric Habér, joined TTO for their last song, playing a bottleneck slide that added a haunted yawning to their sound. TTO released their latest album, Every Eye is a Universe, in August of last year, and had three songs featured on Starbucks’ official store playlist. They are set to release a video for their song “Murmurs,” in the coming months.

My Cartoon Heart followed, bringing a playful, catchy confidence to the stage, despite a forgotten computer which left the two-piece to play a self-confessed stripped down acoustic set. They managed to charm the audience with their fun sound and stage presence (which included throwing Dick’s burgers into the crowd).

After a few songs, the duo called the audience towards the stage and attempted an endearing cover of Lorde’s “Royals,” despite a few minor technical difficulties. The audience made up for it with plenty of joyful singing and dancing along. Their songs quickly built to catchy rhythms, aided by front man Spencer Goll’s lilting vocals. The components left out might have been lamented, but their sound didn’t disappoint. Their latest album, That Was Then (This is Now), released last year, can be found on numerous online streaming platforms, but the band made clear to mention that many of their songs can be found online for free.

Headlining the night, St. Albin – normally a solo artist on piano – was joined by back-up vocalists, guitar, bass, and drums, for this special album release show. The set alternated between her solo songs and band pieces that created a pleasant cadence. She went between somber songs like the beautifully fragile notes of “Unwritten,” and catchier, lively tunes like “Juliet,” that had the crowd dancing. She also fell back on a cover of the centuries-old ballad, “Scarborough Fair.”

The show managed a homey feel, including a shout-out to her parents, who were watching her play live for the first time. It was an enriching environment of collaborative support in pursuit of the perfect sound. St. Albin ended her set with the song “Impossible,” which she hopes will become her new single, gifting to the crowd one final sweet moment before the denizens of rain-soaked cement drifted out the door.

Review by Drew McCutchen
Photos by Aaron Anderson

Sarah St. Albin, Tobias the Owl, and My Cartoon Heart