I was first introduced to Nnamdi Ogobonnaya (aka NNAMDÏ)’s music with his 2020 album, Brat. With songs from the manic-double time twee-pop meets R&B jam “Bullseye” to the driving indie rock-infused,“Perfect In My Mind,” I found Brat to be as striking and original as anything else I’d heard all year. A California-born, Chicago-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, NNAMDÏ also moonlights as the drummer for the delightful Chicagoian instrumental jazz-fusion quintet, monobody. With Brat and 2021’s epic synth-pop opus Are You Happy fresh in my mind last night, I headed out a few blocks from my house to check NNAMDÏ and his colorful and complex pop songs live at Johnny Brenda’s.
NNAMDÏ | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN
NNAMDÏ is otherworldly and engaging at Johnny Brenda’s
The Chicago multi-genre multi-instrumental artist brought a dazzling set of complex pop to Philly.
I was not familiar with the show’s opener, Philly-based indie quartet, LIZDELISE. They came out swinging with a dreamy and lovely indie rock sound. Synths and airy vocal samples adorned lead singer Liz de Lise’s gorgeous pop songs. “Tell Me” was built around double-time drums and a thick and fuzzy, Marc Bolan-esque guitar riff. Catchy and direct, De Lise’s refrain of “Tell me , tell me what you want. I’m not good at guessing” cuts right to the heart of the matter. “Shadow” was another clear standout in the set with its midtempo beat that moved heads before evaporating into a dreamlike coda.
Philly duo, Ghösh was up next and they came on like a bomb. The song “Bang This” opened with a pitched-down Ice Cube sample before launching into a fast-paced Maggotron-style Miami Bass beat. With each song built on unrelenting beats and quickly-paced flows, Ghösh reminded me of a more playful Atari Teenage Riot with “Amen” breaks and Veruca Salt references.
NNAMDÏ and band closed the evening in the headlining slot. The opened the set with “Perfect In My Mind” and epic prog-pop standout from Brat. With its ever-shifting timing, jagged guitars and dreamy vocal, “Perfect In My Mind” feels otherworldly and utterly distinctive. Singing while alternating between guitar and keys, NNAMDÏ is an engaging frontperson, occasionally stopping to tell jokes and stories before he and the band launch us back out into space. “Flowers to my Demons” is a lovely and strage pop songs about inner torment that is animated by NNAMDÏ’s quirky high-pitched falsetto. Moving effortlessly between jazzy breakdowns, heartbreaking ballads (“Wasted”) and proggy feats of precision, NNAMDÏ and his band were locked in all night. They played with joy and intention, revealing the rich and dynamic heart of these songs.