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2020 Year In Review: Hypoluxo

Imagine if a parallel-universe version of the band Television wrote songs about actual televisions with lines like “tell me all the things that you see in me / can it be explained through the TV? / cuz that’s all I know.” Now listen to “Ridden” and imagine no more.  



On Hypoluxo’s third album which is A) self-titled, B) self-possessed, C) self-reliant, or D) all of the above the Brooklyn-based quartet makes the kind of post-punk-inflected guitar-oriented music that critics love to refer to as “angular.” It’s a fitting description but let’s face it there’s lots of different kinds of angles. Any geometrist worth her weight in protractors will tell you there’s acute angles and right angles and obtuse angles just for starters. On Hypoluxo, Hypoluxo has all these angles covered and more.

For sharp-and-severe acute angles take a listen to “Night Life” with its martial drum beat, slithering bassline and twin-guitar sheer heart attack. The song’s ricocheting melodies (headphones recommended) capture something of the anticipation and the anxiety, the potential desperation and potential catharsis of its subject matter, culminating in a frenzied freakout on the dancefloor.

Next, for some obtuse angles check out “Shock” which confronts the vague but pervasive sense of fear hanging in the air as of late. “Well it’s a SHOCK / working up / to realizing this is not a DREAM” is the immaculately articulated opening gambit, going on to describe a mind stressed and dulled by 2020 PTSD. Guitars circle overhead for much of the song, like a flock of angry-but-one-hopes-not-predatory birds, with the fog finally broken by the Rent Is Too Damn High refrain in the song’s coda.

And finally, on “Nimbus” Hypoluxo gives the listener the right angle (heh heh) on how weathermen (and weatherladies let’s be fair) are the scourge of humanity or at least one of them anyway. And wouldn’t you know it, the 1% own all the umbrellas. Michael Stipe once posed the question: “Should we talk about the weather [or] should we talk about the government?” But Hypoluxo make it abundantly clear that they’re one and the same thing. So let’s talk about both and hope for better weather in 2021.
(Jason Lee)

   

Maraschino covers Cristina's "Things Fall Apart"

Maraschino, aka Piper Durabo, is a Los Angeles-based performing artist, songwriter, guitarist, producer, and radio DJ. So why cover her on the Deli NYC blog? Two reasons: First, having come across her music thanks to the gloriously askew “Synthmus” holiday special recently alluded to in this space, it turns out that Durabo started the Maraschino project while residing in the city in 2018 and had her live debut at a Red Bull Music Academy show in Coney Island; and second, because her featured performance on said holiday special, for which she also served as co-host, was a cover of Cristina’s “Things Fall Apart,” a song that’s New York City to the core.

Cristina, full name Cristina Monet Zilkha (1956-2020), was a massively influential but still largely unheralded New York City native whose handful of singles and two albums--released on ZE Records between 1978 and 1984--established a template for ‘80s downtown cool in terms of music and fashion and overall attitude that helped shape not only the early careers of mainstream artists like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, but also countless others in subsequent years/decades who fused elements of pop, disco, punk, new wave, and avant-gardism as a sort of “Brechtian pastiche” in Cristina’s own words. Ms. Monet Zilkha sadly passed away on March 31, 2020 after suffering for years from autoimmune disorders and then contracting COVID early in its reign of horror. Obituaries can be found here and here.

The similarly single-monikered Maraschino is by all appearances a 21st-century inheritor to Cristina’s legacy. From her output with the Teen Vogue touted sister-act Puro Instinct, who were once described as “Stevie Nicks through a lens of chiffon and horse tranquilizers” (Isn't Stevie Nicks usually already wearing chiffon? Oh well, nevermind!) to her several singles released under the new cherrubic rubric, Ms. Durabo is clearly an apprentice of Christina’s outsider pop art, or as she herself puts it “mystic disco-pop for introverts.” Along these lines Maraschino’s debut single “True Lover” (2019) must have had Martin Gore clutching his leather chaps in jealousy with its earworm fusion of boppy major-key synths and sadomasochistic subtext--a dynamic that's effectively captured in the music video which itself matches the Mode for overall icy hotness.

Also not unlike Cristina, who recorded a clutch of memorable covers ranging from Prince’s “When U Were Mine” to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” to Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” (the latter of which being one the greatest cover versions ever recorded in the history of humankind in the mind of this humble writer), Maraschino has likewise taken a shine to the art of the musical homage. To wit, this year she's put out covers of both the Carly Simon/Chic collab “Why” as well as the aforementioned “Things Fall Apart.”

While technically a Christmas song, “Things Fall Apart” is one of those rare instances of a seasonal song that transcends its trappings--a tale of struggle and perseverance in the midst of poverty, perversion, romantic betrayal, tree murder, and motherly love. To her credit Maraschino pulls off a beautifully streamlined synthpop version of the song, capturing the melancholic yet oddly hopeful mood of the original (see the top of this page for the video) and Cristina’s finely-honed deadpan yet fully engaged vocal delivery:

The party was a huge success
"But where should we go next?" they said
They killed a tree of 97 years
And smothered it in lights and silver tears
They all got wrecked
They laughed too loud
I started to feel queasy in the crowd
I caught a cab back to my flat
And wept a bit
And fed the cat

Most widely known from its inclusion on Cristina’s swan song Sleep It Off (1984), “Things Fall Apart” was first released on ZE Records’ 1981 LP A Christmas Record which also introduced the world to the Waitresses’ now perennial “Christmas Wrapping” (by far the most quasi-cheery song on the album). The Xmas comp didn’t shy away from the avant-pop experimentalism and No Wave severity that were ZE's stock in trade (home to releases by James Chance and the Contortions, Suicide, Was (Not Was), and Lydia Lunch/Teenage Jesus and the Jerks among others) and has been called “the first alternative Christmas album” and “the darkest Christmas record of all time." So now you know where to go for one last dose of holiday weirdness this year. And should you go there (trivia alert!) you'll also learn where Madonna found inspiration for the hook on her first hit single. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Lady Bits on the "Look Out"

You better look out / you better decide
If Santa’s your man / or patriarchy must die
Lady Bits is coming to town

He stalks you when you’re sleeping
Gaslights and violates
He thinks he knows what’s bad or good
So be bad for goodness sake

You better look out / you better get wise
Cuz yr gonna find out / that being naughty is nice
Lady Bits is coming to town...

Lady Bits’ new single “Look Out” is out so give it a listen, grab a beer and have a happy new year. And for the stocking stuffer, check out their Lose The Thread EP below!



   

Black Marble: "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

We all know that Mariah Carey is a lovely and talented woman but let’s face it if you hear her singing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” just one more time you may end up bashing in the head of the nearest reindeer with an oversized candy cane and no one wants that for Christmas. So, in the interest of concerned reindeer everywhere, we suggest that you scratch that XXXmas lust song itch with a new cover version of “All I Want” by Black Marble instead. 

Replacing Mariah Carey’s whistle tone and Tony Mattola in a Santa suit with Casiotones, Korgs and a synthetic cowbell and sleigh bells disco groove--and a music video homage to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al"--is a stroke of genius and feels about right for Christmas: The 2020 Edition and plus it’s a perfect coda to Black Marble’s covers EP from earlier this year entitled I Must Be Living Twice (which is well worth checking out on it’s own merits--surely the first covers album ever to features songs by both Wire and Robert Palmer). 


And if that’s not enough, and why should it be, you can also find “All I Want” on the hour-long Synthmas: A Holiday Special featuring performances from the likes of The Space Lady, Neon Indian, Mac DeMarco, Dam-Funk, Drugdealer and more, so many many more. Hosted by Maraschino and Jimmy Whispers--truly this generation’s Donnie & Marie Osmond--with an assist by a sardonic, chain-smoking magical talking Christmas tree, no one has seen holiday-themed musical numbers like these since Bea Arthur serenaded a giant extraterrestrial rat in the Star Wars Holiday Special and that’s been over 40 years ago. And yes, I mean that as a compliment so check it out or else you may find some coal in your fishnet stockings. And while you're at it click those links and spread some holiday cheer to Save Our Stages and the Alexandria House. (Jason Lee)

   

2020 Year in Review: Tempers

People don’t often mention classic country and darkwave in the same breath but Tempers make me think of what would happen if Hank Williams and Patsy Cline were simultaneously reincarnated, went out and bought some modern-day gear and settled down in Brooklyn to write electro-tinged laments and darkwave floor-fillers. Electro-pop is the new honky-tonk after all. 

Here’s a game to play called "Is This a Tempers Lyric or a Hank Williams Lyric"?

There’s a space in the night
where I tear a hole
the moon just went
behind the sky
to hide it’s face and cry

Trick question. It’s both. And speaking of both, Hank Williams and Tempers are both adept at taking inconvenient feelings like loneliness, heartbreak and longing and making something beautiful out of them, while each wisely throw some love songs and dance songs into the mix too because we can’t be So Lonesome We Could Cry all the time. A couple caveats to these parallel tracks: Hank Williams never made a concept album based on a German intellectual’s essay on shopping mall architecture and, to my knowledge, Patsy Cline wasn’t ethnically half-Iranian/half-Latvian and nor was she born in Florida and reared in England.

Tempers are the mixed-gender duo of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper and they started putting out singles together in 2013, with their first full-length arriving in 2015. The full-length in question is called Services and just this month they reissued the record on their current label Dais Records--seeing as the original was released on a German label (one factor in their sizeable European following) and only 500 copies pressed on vinyl. Vinyl festishist alert: the re-release can be had in clear vinyl, pink, marble smoke, or plain ol’ black plastic while supplies last.

In conjunction with the reissue, Tempers recorded an aching, acoustic self-cover of “Bright Over Me” the original of which is on Services. Besides this one the other track we got from the duo this year is “The Use of My Belonging.” A bedroom production released over the summer, it’s got a reflective vibe (“Well I didn’t see it coming / now I feel so out of place / what’s the use of my belonging”) written as it was in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and lockdown in the city. And while these two singles are certainly representative of the Year From Hell that somehow still isn’t over, I would submit that Tempers 2019 LP Private Life captures the stupefaction of late 2020 just as well as these other two releases. In fact, I’d go so far to name it the best album of 2020 released in 2019. Read on for further explanation.

Take a song like “Peace of Mind” which both in mood and in lyric captures a familiar experience, especially familiar this past year, that's rarely addressed in song--namely just f*cking staring at these four walls--where isolation or boredom or insomnia or quarantine or whatever causes your mind to be both dulled and sharpened to the point where you pick up nearly every surrounding detail of your internal and external landscapes: “Lying in the bath, it’s half past three in the morning / this time alone, this time I know, is overrated / my hand’s a wave, my hand’s a tide, my hand’s a flood / picking up the light, water makes shadows on the wall / my hands a sky, my hand’s a bridge, my hand’s a home / this time alone, I’m feeling now, starting over.” But who actually writes a song about this? Brilliant.


Private Life opens with a song that’ll make your spine tingle if you’re inclined to such feelings. It’s called “Capital Pains” and its opening line is “It’s just a way of killing time” going on to describe a strange but seductive mashup of longing, regret, determination, desperation, voyeurism, and maybe even some hint of fulfillment. These divergent sentiments are mixed-and-matched by a musical backing of danceable electro-rhythms, vocals bathed in wraithlike echo, and occasional waves of double-picked/double-tracked electric guitar that envelop the listener. It’s hard to tell if this is supposed to be the sound of “peace of mind” or the start of the breakdown and maybe that's precisely the point. 

The next song is titled “Leonard Cohen Afterworld” (*ahem* so I can sign eternally *ahem*) and by now you see where this is heading. Taken as a whole Private Life nails the general aura of this current moment in time (including the title) to the extent that I’m convinced Jasmine and Eddie recorded it in 2020 and travelled back in time to 2019 to release the thing and give us all a coping mechanism to deal with the upcoming year. I mean just look at the song titles alone: “More Than You Realized,” “Guidance,” “Daydreams,” “Filters,” and “Sleep.” And the cover image. It's all so very 2020. Given this evidence, you’d be advised to seek out Tempers’ music released next year to see what’s on the horizon for 2022. (Jason Lee)