Tag Archives: Laurie Anderson

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Jesca Hoop Proves to Be a True Original at Mercury Lounge

March 9th, 2017

Jesca Hoop – Mercury Lounge – March 8, 2017

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Jesca Hoop was once a nanny to Tom Waits’ kids, and she’s worked with everyone from Blake Mills and Stewart Copeland to Sam Beam, with whom the singer-songwriter released a gorgeous duets album in 2016 and subsequently toured. Hoop has signed to Sub Pop, and she’s a touch mystical—a vocalist and soothsayer from some faraway, possibly not terrestrial place—but she can tell a bar joke with the best of ’em. She’s accessible and impenetrable at the same time. An artist like that, you’d think, would be someone more written about than listened to, but listening to Hoop’s music is only the beginning of the larger embrace. Live, she’s quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) devastating. She formed a deep and detailed bond with an audience over the course of a 75-minute set at Mercury Lounge last night, framed by the recently released Memories Are Now, a collection of new Hoop songs that reveal more with each subsequent listen.

What do we call this? Hoop arrived as part of a four-piece band that included drums, bass, harmony vocals and other effects. Her music could sound trance-folkie, as in the opening one-two of “Songs of Old” and “Animal Kingdom Chaotic.” It could sound bittersweet and kind of country, as in “Peacemaker.” It could creep up and then, well, overcome you, as in “The Coming,” which thanks to some spectral-sounding guitar in its intro sounded distant and then was upon you. It’s cinematic—panoramic even—as Hoop created little worlds out of lyrics. “I refuse to think that my best friend’s going to hell anymore” is what might be called a classic Jesca Hoop line. So is “And now you gotta get it with what you’ve got/ With what you’ve been given or not” (from the late-in-set standout “Born To”). And so is “You say it’s impossible/ But your dumb computer says no.”

Hoop’s an artist in whom you can hear what you want to in her forbearers and potential influences. The mind drifts to Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Björk and plenty of others. When the mind settles, however—and you can really pause to hear and absorb the nuances when in the thrall of Hoop and band in the live setting—you feel like you’re hearing a true original. No one else quite sounds like this, and you’re thirsting for more when an unhurried set still goes by like a finger snap. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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Julia Holter Is Impossible to Pin Down at Rough Trade NYC

October 26th, 2015

Julia Holter – Rough Trade NYC – October 24, 2015

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Onstage Saturday night at her sold-out show at Rough Trade NYC, Julia Holter opened with “Horns Surrounding Me,” her strong voice evoking a touch of Debut-era Björk, punctuated by flourishes of saxophone, violin and a driving drum beat, and she scanned the crowd with an intense gaze as she sang, as if to make eye contact with as many people as possible. There is a powerful force contained within Holter’s music, with lyrics both straightforward and enigmatic, and a stage persona that oscillates between these extremes. For example, in prefacing “Silhouette,” from her latest album, Have You in My Wilderness, Holter stated matter-of-factly, “At the end I go crazy—like insane.”

To be fair, this manifested in a quite measured, subtle way, through the repetition of layered vocals and violin crescendo, with the true insanity perhaps contained somewhere beneath the surface. Later on, Holter used equally evocative language to describe “Lucette Stranded on the Island,” (“a horribly tragic nightmare song”) and “Have You in My Wilderness” (“another sad song about losing my mind”). So, yes, there is a healthy sense of drama and intrigue contained throughout Holter’s music, and it’s clear why she draws comparisons to experimental artists like Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom.

Yet, it is also understandable why she took offense to a journalist’s recent question about whether “she whistles when she is alone,” as Holter recounted from the stage last night. “How patronizing,” she commented, as if by her lyrics or music style she could be pegged as some sort of whimsical/quirky archetype. Closing the show with a powerful pair of songs, “Betsy on the Roof” and “Sea Calls Me Home,” Holter further proved that her compositions and style of performing are at once singular, strange, beautiful and impossible to pin down. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK