Cones fills Starline Social Club with brotherly love, laid-back ’80s pop

Celine Bellegarda/Staff

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Synth-pop band Cones is expert at taking fans back to the time of keytars and catchy beats. As one of the two headliners for the Noise Pop Festival on Feb. 28, the band refreshingly juxtaposed fast drums and distorted guitar with clean chops, groovy keys and soothing vocals.

Cones, made up of guitarist and lead singer Jonathan Rosen and keyboardist Michael Rosen, hails from Los Angeles. The brothers channel the likes of Electric Light Orchestra, the Bee Gees and the Eagles mixed with Tame Impala’s airy atmosphere. Combining bright guitars with complex but fluid synth sounds, Cones is creating its own classy, melancholy pop genre that refuses to conform to the typical punk-inspired indie music seen today.

Cones began its set with the lulling song “Whatever You’re Into,” Jonathan singing the lyrics “Here I go again” lightly into the mic. A bittersweet song evoking images of a lonely late-night drive, the tune had fans swaying with glossy looks in some of their eyes.

During the performance, Michael’s keyboard pedal unexpectedly fell off; besides a slight frown, he kept playing, addressing the blunder only after the song had finished. The keyboardist’s pedal fell off a second time during “Nicemare,” but that time, he didn’t bother picking it up.

The brothers took time to introduce themselves to fans, announcing that they had partially grown up in San Francisco. One brother mentioned that he attended a Noise Pop Festival event in 2003, during which The Blood Brothers headlined. He said it was cool that the two of them now had the opportunity to do the same.

Cones played a new song off of its latest album, Pictures of Pictures, titled “Moonstone.” The band’s choice to cultivate a consistent sound rather than deviate from what fans are familiar with is a wise one, as the duo has managed to hit a sweet spot between playing intoxicating, funky music and fresh, psychedelic pop. The array of stage lights made the venue feel like a scene straight out of a hip 1980s club.

The brothers were not shy about expressing their love for one another throughout the show. “I love you, man,” Jonathan would say after finishing a song, to which Michael would promptly and sincerely respond, “I love you so much, man.”

Before playing “Inner Voice,” Jonathan said, “This song’s about hating yourself and loving yourself at the same time.” In response to his brother, Michael said, “I’m here for you.”

“Are you, though?” Jonathan jokingly questioned.

The duo engaged in more familial banter, even dedicating a song to their mother and father, who were supporting their sons from the back of the crowd.

Cones, in a surprising but also fitting manner, then played a cover of Tiffany’s 1987 rendition of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Jonathan messed up slightly during the intro, to which Michael affectionately commented, “My little brother f⁠—ed up.” But the group picked it back up and delivered a gloriously groovy, psychedelic version of the song. Though the original track already has ample synths, Cones twisted the beats to fit its own sound. The cover was well-executed; Michael’s smooth keyboard riffs complemented the way Jonathan mimicked Tiffany’s voice.

“You’re definitely not alone,” Michael said to the crowd after the song ended, reinforcing the band’s overall sunny and understanding image. The band ended its set with “Back in the Brain,” an older song and fan favorite.

It’s easy to make 1980s pop music sound stale and overdone, but Cones stays far away from anything sounding canned and unoriginal. The band doesn’t dip into the electronic category but walks alongside it in the vein of groups like M83. With Jonathan’s soft vocals and Michael’s nostalgic keys, Cones is bringing back synth in the best way possible, leaving fans longing for more 1980s-inspired music.

Highlights: “Moonstone,” “Inner Voice,” “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].