MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: TwinArt, Jill Kroesen, Autour de Lucie, Alina Bzhezhinska, Brandi and the Alexanders

Welcome to Audiofemme’s record review column, Musique Boutique, written by music journo vet Gillian G. Gaar. The last Monday of each month, Musique Boutique offers a cross-section of noteworthy reissues and new releases guaranteed to perk up your ears.

Coxsackie, New York-based rarities reissue label Sundazed Records (and their analog-cut from mono masters offshoot Modern Harmonic) have had busy month full of terrific releases, two of which focus on feminist alt-rock of the 1970s-early ’80s. TwinArt Presents Instant This/Instant That: NY NY 1978-1985 is a fascinating compilation that delves into the artistic goings on percolating in New York City’s Lower East Side at the time. It was the same fertile arts scene that Laurie Anderson, Ann Magnuson, and Sonic Youth would spring from, and these songs crackle with energy. The title track is a satiric ode to consumerism by Taste Test, a collective of visual artists and musicians, including the creative design team TwinArt (twins Ellen and Lynda Kahn) that curated the collection. Check out the song’s delightful video, the first of the numerous videos TwinArt would go on to make.

TwinArt’s own songs have a brittle edge to them. “Hands On Hands Off” is a great boundary-setting anthem (“Hands attack/You can attack back,” the lyrics warn), bringing to mind the likes of the Au Pairs, Delta 5, and Kleenex. “Double Shot of Love” is like a twisted version of the B-52’s “Love Shack.” Of the other contributors, the Dance lay down a potent groove in “You Got to Know,” and Julia Heyward has a tart sweetness as she delivers lines like “You’re so primitive/Eat the rich” in “Keep Moving Buddy.” It’s a great unearthing of long lost gems and previously unreleased goodies.

Jill Kroesen appears on Instant This/Instant That as well, and is also anthologized on her own album, I Really Want to Bomb You: 1972-1984. It vibrates with post punk/new wave/no wave fervor; all clattering disjointed edges, the snap crackle and pop of percussion, a braying honking saxophone. Then there’s her distinctive voice; alternately a stuttering monotone (“Wayne Hayes Blues”), a high pitch wailing like the cawing of birds (“I’m Sorry I’m Such a Weenie”), and a bluesy moan (“Honey, You’re So Mean”). As the song titles reveal, Kroesen has a wry sense of humor. She’s not above offering the occasional history lesson (“Alexander the Great,” “Napoleon”), and has a knack for cutting to the chase —as in the pithy “Fuck Off.”

Finally, two albums by French act Autour de Lucie, L’Échapée Belle (“The Beautiful Escape,” 1994) and Immobile (1998), make their vinyl debut thanks to Sundazed. This is accessible pop rock that extends a friendly hand across the language barrier to draw listeners in. “L’Accord Parfait” is perfect for breezy bicycle rides. There’s a new wave intensity in the jagged guitars of “Selon I’humeur” coupled with the retro flavor of an organ, like a cross between Blondie and Booker T & the MG’s. The pretty English-language “Island” is reminiscent of Julee Cruise, if she were floating down the Riviera while sipping on something from a frosted glass. The short piano-based instrumental “Sagrada Familia” is an atmospheric film soundtrack in search of a movie. Valérie Leulliot’s perennially enticing voice is the icing on the cake.

The harp isn’t an instrument you’d necessarily associate with jazz. But Ukrainian born, Polish educated, and UK-based harpist Alina Bzhezhinska (here’s her own video on how to pronounce her name) has made that leap, working with an ensemble she calls the HipHarpCollective. Their new album Reflections (BBE Music) will get you to think in a whole new way about the instrument. In “For Carrol,” a laidback beat underscores a mellow trumpet line by Jay Phelps that’s set against Bzhezhinska’s playful harp. The lively “Fire” adds Tony Kofi on saxophone to the mix, for an invigorating ride with plenty of twists and turns. That’s a danceable number, but most of the record offers music to chill out to, reflecting the disparate influences; Bzhezhinska cites Alice Coltrane, Joel Henderson, Dorothy Ashby’s “Afro-harping,” and the unmistakable pulse of triphop as the music that inspires her. Dip into a number like “Soul Vibrations” and let it spirit you away.

When Brandi and the Alexanders formed in 2014, they were an R&B covers band. But over the years they evolved into creating original music, citing legends like Aretha Franklyn, Lauryn Hill, and Isaac Hayes as influences. “Fire” is the lead off track from their new EP, Reflection (self-released), a powerful anthem written in response to George Floyd’s murder in 2020 and the protests that followed. “In chains, but you couldn’t keep us silent,” Brandi Thompson sings, in a song that’s a resonant affirmation of racial resilience. “I hope that a song like ‘Fire’ can be used to strike a nerve and inspire people to take action when something’s not right,” Thompson explained in an interview with radio station WFUV, and the song gets the job done as a perfect rallying cry.

Elsewhere, “Mama Told Me” is a smooth, cool track about dealing with the fallout from your parents’ break up and finding one’s inner strength. “Where You Belong” is a love song to an absent loved one, buoyed by picturesque lyrics like “Feel as cold and as empty as a steel drum in winter.” This is modern soul for troubled times, and it goes down very well.

RSVP HERE: Drug Couple Play Baby’s All Right + More

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.

If J Mascis and Shania Twain started a band together after Armageddon, it would sound like Drug Couple – an actual couple, Becca and Miles, who met and fell in love in 2016 while working on the record for Becca’s former project. Since then, they have written and recorded their debut EP Little Hits and a forthcoming follow-up, Choose Your Own Apocalypse, while microdosing LCD together. You can check out their dream punk ballads at Baby’s All Right on 1/29 with Edna and Coy Sterling. We chatted with them about their dream roadside attractions, upcoming wedding, and plans to harness the power of mind control in 2020.

AF: What was your first ever show like? What was your most memorable show of 2019?

DC: The first time we played together was actually for M’s solo stuff, opening up for Chairlift in Red Hook; the first time we played as our own project was a house show on the Fourth of July at B’s childhood home in Vermont. Our most memorable show of 2019 was probably when we played at Camp Here Here, a very cool place in the Catskills.

AF: If you could play with any band alive or dead who would it be? What band would you want to play your wedding?

DC: Fucking OASIS! We’re actually getting married this summer, and the plan is to have the afterparty be a big ass show with a bunch of our friends playing throughout the night. Yo La Tengo would be pretty cool though too.

AF: Do you prefer microdosing on shrooms or LSD? How does microdosing contribute to your songwriting/recording process?

DC: DEFINITELY the latter. We were pretty into it while we were writing and recording the last record, but it’s been a minute.

AF: What album would listen to as your soundtrack to the apocalypse?

DC: We wrote our second EP, Choose Your Own Apocalypse (that we’ll be releasing this Spring) as a sort of a soundtrack to the impending apocalypse. It’d probably be pretty stressful though so maybe just some Sam Cooke or Neil Young. We’d say Al Green…but then things get all sexy and you’ve really gotta focus on minute-to-minute survival in that kinda situation.

AF: When you go on tour, what will your first road-side attraction visit be?

DC: M is a fast food connoisseur and B’s never had Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Hardee’s, or Whataburger. So those. Also looking forward to Walmart and hanging out in all those gigantic roadside gas and food centers on 80 in Ohio. This is M’s idea of a good time fwiw.

AF: Beyond that, what are your plans for 2020?

DC: Make beautiful things together that we can be proud of forever. Harness the power of mind-control. Become the surprise late entry candidates in the Presidential election that capture the hearts and minds of a nation and, after winning, save the world from its imminent destruction by being able to actually explain our fucking ideas and plans with a shred of believability, coherence, and authenticity.

RSVP HERE for Drug Couple with Edna and Coy Sterling on 1/29 @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10. 

More great shows this week:

1/24 Samantha Urbani @ Elsewhere. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/24 Frank & The Hurricanes, Alberta, Greem Jellyfish, Grout, Poncili Creacion, Knife Wife, Sweet Baby Jesus @ Rubulad. All Ages / $10-15 RSVP HERE

1/25 Kal Marks, Maneka, A Deer A Horse @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/25 Pop 1280, Public Practice, Weeping Icon @ Trans Pecos. All Ages / $10-12 RSVP HERE

1/26 Tredici Bacci, Godcaster, Eyes of Love, Starla Online, Mr. Transylvania @ Mercury Lounge. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/28 Deerhoof, Sloppy Jane, Gold Dime @ Elsewhere. 21+ / $20 RSVP HERE

1/28 Cole Haden (Model/Actriz), Poppies, Red Ribbon, Castle Pasture @ The Dance. 21+ / $10-12 RSVP HERE

1/29 Henry Flwr (release show), JW Francis, Big Bliss, Viktor Longo, DJ Julia Cumming @ The Sultan Room. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

1/29 Anna Weber @ National Sawdust. 21+ $25 RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: Godcaster Play Baby’s All Right + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.

After seeing Godcaster for the first time, I imagined they all grew up together on a purple mountain surrounded by space dragons on one of Saturns moons. Turns out I was half right: they have been playing music together since they were kids and called themselves a band before they even played instruments. Their members are split between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and played 25 shows of their well-composed glam chaos in NYC  last year, landing themselves on Oh My Rockness’ list of Hardest Working Bands of 2019. Their first show of the new decade is on 1/10 at Baby’s All Right with many of the other bands on this list including Cindy Cane, Darkwing, Gesserit, Top Nachos, and New Myths. We chatted with Godcaster about flute solos, Europa and the hand seekers…

AF: What was your favorite moment of your 2019 shows? Who was the best dancer you saw at one of your shows? Where and with what band do you want to play in the next year that you haven’t yet?

GC: When the piston misfired in the old van / big wheelie across Utah. Best dancer: David! Who we want to play with: Deerhoof!

AF: How large is your collection of fringe jackets? What’s the most creative use of the fringe on your jacket?

GC: Keeping in terms with the hand seekers, we are big we are valid

AF: If you could play on any planet, moon, black hole or another celestial variety in the universe, where would it be & why?

GC: Europa the frozen moon with the elves!

AF: What is the most inspirational flute solo you have ever heard?

GC: Keeping in terms with the hand seekers! Delving quick and valid

AF: What are your plans for 2020 + beyond?

GC: Continue commencing big velocity undergoing valid dirth and keep rockin around!

RSVP HERE for Oh My Rockness Hardest Working Bands Showcase with Godcaster, Cindy Cane, Darkwing, Gesserit, Top Nachos, and New Myths @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10

More great shows this week:

1/10 The Wants, Beeef, Gift @ Berlin. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/10 Emily Ritz, Anna Fox, Scout Gillett, Katy Rea @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

1/11 Cup (feat. Nels Cline + Yuka C Honda), Anna Webber, Susan Alcorn, UNHOLY ROW, Helen Sung @ The Dance (Winter Jazzfest). $60 RSVP HERE

1/15 Futurebirds (Record Release) @ Bowery Ballroom. 21+ / $18 RSVP HERE

1/15 Hypemom, Premiums, Bad Weird, Minaxi @ Alphaville. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/15 Rhys Tivey (residency), Tiny Guns, beds @ C’mon Everybody. 21+ / $10-13 RSVP HERE

1/15 Shadow Monster, North By North, Desert Sharks, Lily Mao @ Our Wicked Lady. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/15 Thick, Gymshorts, Dropper @ Rough Trade. 18+ / $10 RSVP HERE


SHOW REVIEW: Hoops @ The Dance

If you haven’t heard, Hoops are back.

When the Bloomington-area dream pop ensemble abruptly called it quits via Facebook in early 2018, they had been riding high on the release of their debut Routines, as well as a compilation of cassette releases, Tapes #1-3, the year before. “Since the beginning, all of us have always lived in different places and as a band have operated (and thrived) on spontaneity and coming together when the moment is right,” read the statement announcing the hiatus. “That moment could come again at some point in the future but for now we’re letting this project rest and taking some time to focus on life/work/school/other projects/etc.”

That moment has evidently arrived, as the band (now a six-piece, still co-fronted by Drew Auscherman, Keagan Beresford, and Kevin Krauter, who has a solo record coming out in February) returned to New York City for two back-to-back shows last week at The Dance, a new-ish Baby’s All Right-affiliated venue situated near Astor Place, across the street from Joe’s Pub. Though the Wednesday show was announced in November, along with Hoops’ first post-hiatus single “They Say,” the Thursday gig was rather spontaneous, with ticket-holders from night one receiving a invite via email the same day to attend night two for free. Whether practicing for their impending one-off at Chicago’s Thalia Hall in support of Whitney this Sunday, or buoyed by excitement at the prospect of getting back together, Hoops’ comeback seemed completely natural, as though their hiatus hadn’t happened at all. Met with warm enthusiasm by the crowd, the band debuted a slew of new songs as well as revisiting favorites from their previous albums.

Hoops inhabit the sentimental niche carved out by acts like Mac DeMarco, Beach Fossils, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and their ilk: feel good, earnest indie pop that veers from the mainstream by introducing subtle twists here and there – an unexpected guitar solo, a little pedal magic, manipulated vocals. Like “They Say,” Hoops’ newer songs flirted with an almost funk-inflected terroir, but even tunes that might’ve seemed mellower on the band’s LPs, like “All My Life” and “La La La,” had the crowd swaying throughout the white-washed, neon-lit space whilst sipping on $6 cans of Piels. Krauter wore his hair a little longer, while Beresford sported a newly-shaved scalp, but essentially, not much had changed in terms of how they approached playing together, flexibly swapping instruments now and again but also sounding tight no matter the formation. Hoops give off an authentic, hard-working air born out of their Hoosier roots, but their glossy new tracks hint that they’ve added some shine to their production.

By the end of their set, the room was in a full-on “One! More! Song!” chant before the band re-emerged from the green room upstairs (via the swanky spiral staircase to stage right) to play their encore. There’s no word yet on when they’ll release a new album, or if they’re planning to play more shows, but Hoops certainly seem to have a knack for leaving fans wanting more.