New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: ambrosia parlsey

Holly Miranda Sings Your Soul Back to You at Hell Phone in Bushwick

In a city where even the corporate media has grudgingly admitted that roughly 70% of New Yorkers spend about 70% of their income on rent, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate residency than Holly Miranda‘s ongoing series of Thursday night shows this month at Hell Phone in Bushwick. Miranda’s music isn’t political, but she touches a nerve, in a profound and angst-ridden way. To paraphrase Jarvis Cocker, when you’re this broke, there aren’t many options beyond getting together with your comrades-in-poverty…and when those sort of things fall through, as they seem to inevitably, Miranda will sing your soul back to you. Solo on Telecaster and then piano, her show last night was all about solace, and transcendence.

About two thirds of the way through, she cautioned the crowd not to expect happy songs, which was true, although there was plenty of fun in her roughly hourlong set. She proved herself to be probably the only person in history to cover both Connie Converse and Drake, and find an improbably sad connection between the two. In a duet with opening act Ambrosia Parsley, she slowly made her way through a starkly spacious cover of the BeeGees’ How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. As woundedly intense as all that was, Miranda’s orignals were even more haunting.

She drew deeply from throughout her career, from the jaggedly incisive indie rock of her old band the Jealous Girlfriends, to her most recent, self-titled album as well as some unselfconsciously shattering new material. Out in front of a crowd, Miranda goes with raw vocal power more than the finesse that characterizes her studio work, airing out a soulful wail that sometimes alluded to that brittle post-Billie Holiday intonation that Norah Jones made so popular fifteen years ago – but with a lot more oomph and originality.

“I carry this torch across the ocean for you,” she intoned on the night’s opening number, swinging C&W spun through the fragmented prism of lo-fi 80s college radio rock. She flipped the script on her sassy singalong hit All I Want Is to Be Your Girl. trading out lust for longing. Slowly crescendoing Lynchian balladry gave way to a forceful clang as Miranda’s voice went up to the top of her range, from a muted mournfulness to wrenching heartbreak. She explained that she stole the chords for Hymnal from an actual book of hymns that her parents kept atop the piano in her childhood home, then told a funny story about playing it at the Grand Old Opry…and then sang the living hell out of it. The best song of the night was a somber new Nashville gothic piano tune, the chorus opening with, “So I’ll sing, because my mother can’t,” her voice rising with a bitterly allusive insistence.

And it was great to be able to hear Parsley open the night, trading songs and backed by guitarist Chris Maxwell, Miranda supplying ethereally bracing high harmonies. Together they made their way through a handful of uneasily torchy, slow swing tunes and a plaintively altered bolero, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Last year, Maxwell put out a simmeringly lyrical album of southern gothic songs, Arkansas Summer, and he treated the crowd to a tantalizing trio of those as well. “I’ve learned to whistle down the wind,” he intoned with a nonchalant but knowing gravitas.

Miranda’s Thursday night residency continues at Hell Phone, 247 Varet St. in Bushwick through May 26, with a series of special guests opening the night a little after 9. Cover is $10, or $15 including a download of Miranda’s forthcoming ep. Take the L to Morgan Ave. and exit at Bogart St. The club is about three blocks away, enter through the phone booth at the back of the Ange Noir Cafe.

Queens of the Stone Age at Joe’s Pub?!?

Queens of the Stone Age at Joe’s Pub: makes you smile, right? If you’re a New Yorker and you know that band, that’s worth at least half a laugh: QOTSA rocking the hell out of that sedate, shi-shi venue? That concert may not exactly be on the horizon, but you can see an entire set of QOTSA songs there when Nouvelle Vague mastermind Olivier Libaux brings his Uncovered QOTSA project there on Oct 15 at 10. And it’s a lot different than his regular band. Nouvelle Vague have a polarizing effect: some love them for their sarcastic loungey covers of 80s music, from punk to new wave; others dislike them because they lampoon iconic bands (Joy Division, for one), or because Libaux’ satire is so scattershot. In his world, everything from the best to the schlockiest is fair game for a spoof. Libaux has a whole album of QOTSA covers just out, and not only is it very funny, it’s also very revealing. Stripped to their core, these are really good songs, some of them maybe even better than the originals! Even if the sarcasm drips off them like fresh camembert.

There are a dozen songs on the album, delivered by a parade of female vocalists from genres across the spectrum, indie rock to jazz to straight-up goth music. Libaux’s M.O. here is to turn the tracks into goth-pop, which works as well as it does because QOTSA’s tunes draw a straight line back to Sabbath with their macabre chromatics. The opening track, River in the Road has Rosemary Standley’s nonchalantly warm vocals over a sway that hints at trip-hop – and it might be creepier than the QOTSA version. Katharine Whalen sings Medication as a catchy oldtime swing shuffle, as Jolie Holland might have arranged it. Clare Manchon (of Clare & the Reasons) does a deliciously blithe take of Burn the Witch, reinventing it as droll goth-pop that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Twilight.

Libaux’ Lynchian bossa arrangement of No One Knows, with Inara George on vocals, is the closest thing to Nouvelle Vague here. George also sings a lingering version of Hangin’ Tree. Susan Dillane’s faux-seductive goth delivery washes over carefree fingerpicked guitar and minor-key string synth on In My Head, while Skye sings 3/s and 7’s with hints of corporate “R&B” over funeral parlor organ and castanets: RZA might have done it this way.

Tangled Up in Plaid reaches for a Lynchian trip-hop swing with Gaby Moreno on the mic and, like a lot of the tracks here, manages to outdo the menace of the original despite itself. The comedic factor gets amped up when Ambrosia Parsley sings “I roll my bloodshot eyes,” on the devilishly droll cover of The Blood Is Love. Likewise, jazz chanteuse Youn Sun Nah’s deadpan “when I was a little boy” as Running Joke, done here as a mid-90s style Blonde Redhead-style waltz, gets underway. The Vegas-y space-pop version of Go with the Flow, with Emiliana Torrini on vocals, is as silly and over-the-top as Libaux gets here. The album winds up with Alela Diane singing a swaying, electric harpsichord-driven gothic cabaret take of I Never Came. Plenty of LOL moments here, especially if you know the source material (although some QOTSA fans might disagree vehemently). It’s also disquieting, something that Libaux seems to be going for, and if that’s the case he’s succeeded as mightily if a lot less loudly than the band that wrote these songs.