Anna Laura Quinn’s gentle crooning would be just as easy on the ears any time of year, but the release of her new EP I Feel The Sudden Urge To Sing! is timed perfectly to the glorious spring now upon us. Quinn has been studying jazz singing at UNO for the last few years, and it shows. Her voice is a well-worked instrument that brings new vitality to classic tunes from the likes of Cole Porter and Duke Ellington. Quinn grew up speaking French at a bilingual school, and we can hear it pay off in “Youkali.” This might be the best song on the album, combining the seductive quality of the French language with a low register where Quinn’s voice is richest. In “Once Upon A Dream,” Quinn also sings beautifully in Portuguese, against arrangements that are part jazz, part bossa nova, with a dash of violin menouche mixed in for good measure. There are no hard edges to this album—the sprightly arrangements urge you to dwell on the good things, with a sincerity as irresistible as the scent of the orange blossoms in full bloom around us. Holly Devon


When this review hits the streets, local synth star BÊNNÍ will be far away, touring in Europe. With The Return, the one man machine reminds us of the importance of being yourself and making your own niche. Only Benny Divine could possibly conjure this type of bizarre dark synth. It’s like something aliens from B-horror movies would get down to at clubs on their home planets. Thick bass and strange key melodies override the senses. Although Divine has performed locally as part of many band, from Missing Monuments to Heavy Lids, BÊNNÍ doesn’t sound much like any of his prior projects. With the possible exception of Quintron (who mixed this album), BÊNNÍ really doesn’t have any peers. This album is primarily dedicated to mystic exploration via instrumentals, except for two talk-box-affected vocal tracks: “The Return Pt. 2” and “End of Light.” While the keyboardist’s 2017 debut on Goner Records was positively received, that release was actually culled from two prior cassette releases. This means The Return, somewhat ironically given its title, marks BÊNNÍ’s first proper dive into making a full album. Propelled by this record and his Adult Swim appearance last October, BÊNNÍ continues to creep his way towards mass recognition. —William Archambeault


 Berlin Taxi is a new dark wave project from Michael Arruebarrena (Dronebaby, Mopsik), who was inspired by his European travel experiences. While Arruebarrena’s previous projects lean towards no-wave and garage rock, Contract pivots into synthpop, but it doesn’t feel like genre tourism. Arruebarrena’s baritone sounds perfectly at home amongst the bit-crushed synthesizers and sequenced percussion provided by bandmates Greg Manson and Morgan McManus. Opener “Everybody Changes” greets listeners with a pulsating bassline and a glimmering synthesizer riff that complement Arruebarrena’s steely vocals. “Middle Man” sensibly interpolates reverberating guitars with electronics and a memorably coy hook. Centerpiece “Back Roads” is a down-tempo earworm with a swinging drumline and stacking synthesizers that blur together as the song develops, with Arruebarrena’s lyrics vividly portraying the introspection that travel begets. Contract hits on April 12th, with a release show that evening at Gasa Gasa. —Andy Swicord


Dana Ives’ debut kicks off with a laid-back groove and enough echo to send a ripple through the bong water. It doesn’t really slap until the spiraling riff and tight drumming of second track “AGT.” Each of these five songs eschews verse/chorus structure in exchange for an immediate, melodic vocal hook surrounded by alternately heavy and anxious breakdowns. “DQP” lulls you into complacency with a minute of ambience, before turning into a bad boy rap-rocker. “Terms of Endearment” is a folksy tune about whether one’s love interest prefers being called “darling” or “honey;” it gets so intense that it borders on hilarious, like the speaker is having a panic attack over the issue. The band said on WTUL recently that they prefer to cite individual artists like Ian MacKaye or David Byrne as influences (rather than the bands they front), as it emphasizes the role of the individual’s conscious artistic choices. Fittingly, these songs rely upon authorial intent, setting up tonal expectations to defy them. The album drops on 4/20, with a release party at Gasa Gasa. —Michael Kunz


The Far East are NYC-based, but their roots are actually grounded in New Orleans. Much of the experience and knowledge that fueled Maddie Ruthless as a reggae artist and deejay comes from her time at Domino Sound with Prince Pauper and working with selector-producer-promoter T-Roy. The band is a conduit for Maddie to use those tools to compose original songs with her backing crew, putting her selector persona aside. Channel Tubes Presents: The Far East mirrors a classic “discomix” record that includes alternate versions of songs, sometimes instrumental or featuring toasting from a guest deejay. The album is heavily coated with vintage reggae and dub sounds, paying respect not only to the music but also the culture from which it stems. This kind of precise recording style and sound variation is what The Relic Room in Manhattan captures best along with Channel Tubes’ engineer and founder Brett Tubin, who has worked with many other NYC reggae artists. One of the most difficult aspects of playing this kind of music for someone not inherently from that community, such as The Far East, is getting it right. Ska in the ‘90s and 2000s polluted the genre to a point of embarrassment with lots of overplaying and genre-fusion, but The Far East keep its approach simple, focusing on spacing between traditional Jamaican rhythms and heavy downbeats, mostly thanks to Matt Burdi on drums and Christian Philippone on bass. In New Orleans, Maddie was known for her vibrant vocal style and wasn’t shy on the microphone, but on The Far East, she takes a step back to allow other voices to appear, namely JohnnyGo Figure, Willow Wilson, and Sammy Dread—all well-respected members of the NYC reggae community. —Robert Landry


With The Stoned, Louis Michot and crew continue to prove that they are some of Cajun music’s most forward thinkers. This one-track, 44-minute opus is a piece of art in the most literal sense. The musicians were clearly not concerned about the idea of commercial consumption, and the release benefits from that. Recorded during Michot’s 2016 residency at the Stone in New York, L.E.S. Douze features the fiddle player primarily joined by past and present members of his famed group Lost Bayou Ramblers. Additional members of the band are The Pogues’ Spider Stacy (a frequent LBR collaborator), former Bomb the Music Industry! contributor Jeff Tobias, and free jazz drummer Jason Robira. The Stoned flows and twists in different directions throughout the performance, sometimes as relatively straight forward Cajun waltz, other times as free jazz, bursting with avant-garde eccentricity. Shoegaze guitar and vocals drowning in delay also make their appearances at points. While Michot and his compatriots certainly have their roots in traditional music, they have moved beyond to create something distinctly their own. —William Archambeault


Born in the tiny village of Tchintabaraden, Niger, Mdou Moctar learned to play music on a guitar he made himself. The instrument only had five strings because the piece of wood he used for the fretboard wasn’t wide enough for six. Moctar is Tuareg, a semi-nomadic people of the Sahara Desert. His family is rigidly Muslim; and growing up, music was strictly forbidden in the house. Thus, Moctar practiced in secret, with no formal instruction, on a handcrafted lefty guitar, in a place where rock‘n’roll is an alien concept. Despite these obstacles—or because of them—he’s become an international sensation, hailed by many as the greatest living guitarist. His mesmeric playing contains touchstones of the Tuareg style, but he’s just as comfortable shredding electric as he is playing the traditional acoustic desert blues of his people. His new album, Ilana (The Creator), is his first with a full band, and the backup instrumentals help flesh out his licks, producing spectacular results. The record is triumphant in tone, the work of an artist who has overcome more than most Westerners could possibly comprehend. Thematically, he is dealing with serious stuff. The title track, for instance, juxtaposes a hypnotic, reverb-heavy riff with lyrics discussing French exploitation of Niger’s uranium resources. The Tuareg are still reeling in the wake of a 2012 rebellion in Mali and Niger, and Moctar’s newfound fame has given him a platform to tell his people’s story. —Raphael Helfand


The Miserablist consists of eight tracks soaked in despair. Most of the songs on this debut release are slow-paced numbers that seem tailored for crying on the dance floor. For the most part, Missing likes to take their time, slowly bringing their grooves to a simmer. One exception is “Nonplussed,” a semi-anthemic number immediately defined by pounding drums and distorted, driving bass. The tune’s clean guitar melodies sharply contrast its grim surroundings to create a strangely uplifting sensation. James White’s vocals complement the band’s instrumentals well. He has clearly been studying hard at the Nick Cave school of moans and groans. Missing is an excellent example of the recent goth resurgence that has begun slowly invading New Orleans’ underground. Sharing members with sludge metal band Cikada and hardcore group Forged by Hate, Missing proves that all of these scenes can co-exist under one umbrella, united under oblique emotions. —William Archambeault


Priests adamantly rejects the “political punk” label that’s been stuck to them ever since the release of their debut LP, Nothing Feels Natural, fell inconveniently one week after Trump’s inauguration. In fairness, it’s the easiest way to categorize the band’s satirical brand of loud, clipped, high-speed rock. But the Washington D.C. outfit’s sound draws from surf, jazz, trip-hop, and new wave, so it’s easy to see why they find the punk classification reductive. On their sophomore album, The Seduction of Kansas—out April 5 via their self-created label, Sister Polygon—they set out to prove how wide their influences range. For starters, they’ve boosted their production value exponentially, enlisting the help of John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen). Congleton’s pop sensibilities smooth out some of Priests’ rougher edges on the new project, but they don’t soften the message, instead clarifying it. Katie Alice Greer’s caustic lyrics, often obfuscated by fuzz in past work, now cut through much more clearly. G.L. Jaguar’s guitar work is much less aggressive on the new album, allowing him to play with a more varied palate. And Daniele Daniele’s hyperkinetic drumming, previously rendered as a staticky roar, is now clean and punchy. Like their first record, Kansas handles political themes (a full track is dedicated to corrupt Texas congressman Charlie Wilson); but it never feels didactic. Instead, it tells the stories of its toxic cast of characters with humor and nuance, leaving judgment to the listeners. Raphael Helfand


Sasami’s debut solo album is a remarkably confident first effort that reveals the Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist’s talent for writing and arrangement only hinted at on previous collaborations. Though she contributed backup vocals to both Cherry Glazerr and Wild Nothing, Sasami’s voice at the forefront of her self-titled album is a revelation: she exudes both strength and tenderness, acknowledging influences while forging a clear identity. SASAMI is—at its core—a breakup record, but manages to express a wide range of emotions across the ten tracks that transition seamlessly from Broadcast-indebted electronic indie to hushed, dreamy ballads. In fact, the pacing of this record is one of its greatest strengths—this is not a collection of singles, but rather an album best enjoyed start-to-finish (and at a taut 40 minutes, SASAMI never feels bloated or tedious). Opener “I Was A Window” introduces the various synth and percussion elements that texture the entirety of the album while showcasing Sasami’s easy talent for vocal melodies. “At Hollywood” is dream pop unnerving enough to soundtrack a nightmare (or at least a David Lynch film). Closer “Turned Out I Was Everyone” loops a vocal line over lush synth pads and a minimalist drum machine, building ambience slowly with the kind of control and purpose characteristic of this excellent debut. Nick Pope


For those sadly washing the last of the Mardi Gras glitter out of their hair, one-woman extravaganza Valerie Sassyfras is here to bring you back to the party. Crazy Train shows off Sassyfras’ range, from the electric pop pizzazz of tracks like “Writin’s on the Wall” and “Crazy Train,” to a classic swampy Louisiana sound on “The Sass” and “The Big Easy.” The lyrics are honest and forthright: “Evil” is about a back-stabbing lady who is “bad to the bone;” and on “Girls Night Out” she and the ladies are “gonna get all crazy,” because they’re “horny” and “lazy.” Her Sassy(frasy)ness is maybe best captured by the synthy diva cover of “My Way,” an anthem which sums up her decades-long career as an eccentric multi-instrumentalist and pop art performance artist. “Sassyfras style,” as she puts it in the intro to “Girls Night Out,” “is get down to get up music.” I know I’ll be playing this album while getting up to many future shenanigans. —Holly Devon


Live at Chickie Wah Wah is Woodenhead’s seventh full-length since they first jammed together as Loyola music students—44 years ago. True veterans, the instrumental quartet has miraculously kept a consistent line-up. They describe their sound as a reaction to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but they reject the “fusion” label. Live at Chickie Wah Wah reveals a band more in the prog rock arena, betraying Rush and Primus influences with soaring, cerebral solos and spastic funk. They’re most comfortable grinding into proto-metal riffs like the one that closes “Strut # 1.” Exceptional moments like the serpentine bass solo in “Mosaico” break the mold and put the audience on edge. This album chronicles the Woodenhead live experience, including crowd reaction and stage banter, with technical snafus like a muddied low end mended by producer Michael Brown, and the occasional stray guitar or keyboard line patched in post. Guitarist and chief songwriter Jimmy Robinson credits Paul Clement’s flawless drumming as the secret to the band’s energetic interplay with the audience. The album drops April 12th.  —Michael Kunz


Rick Alverson’s films are consistently tough to watch. From his scathing opus on irony (The Comedy) to his dark look at comedy itself (Entertainment), the director’s work is methodical and unforgiving. His latest, The Mountain, takes place in ‘50s middle America and tells the story of Andy (Tye Sheridan), a quietly troubled zamboni driver. After his mother’s institutionalization and lobotomy and his abusive father’s sudden death, Andy is offered a job as photographer and personal assistant to Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), a traveling lobotomist (and the man who performed the procedure on Andy’s mother). Their tour proceeds in slow agony. The sparse dialogue is almost entirely non-sequitous, and the bleak scenery, though beautifully shot, provides little to latch onto. Even Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), whose score was the backbone of the Safdie brothers’ tense thriller Good Time (2017), provides only brief flourishes of ambient electronica, denying the audience even the pleasure of period consistency. Near the end of the movie, Jack (Dennis Lavant) enters the mix, throwing the whole operation off its axis. The father of one of Wallace’s patients, Jack ends up stealing the show with his drunken, Franglish ravings on God and art. When the credits finally rolled at the South By Southwest screening I attended, the man sitting behind me loudly whispered, “Thank fucking God.” I partly shared his sentiment, but The Mountain has since stuck with me. If nothing else, it’s a perplexing meditation on the horrors of American life. —Raphael Helfand


It’s only recently that the story behind Plessy v. Ferguson—the infamous Supreme Court case of the 1890s that helped enshrine “separate but equal” segregation into law for decades—has been widely explored. That’s even true in New Orleans, where the case originated, when Homer Plessy deliberately refused to leave a whites-only railcar in order to challenge the discriminatory law. Luxenberg explores not only the facts of the case, which take up surprisingly little of his book, but also the histories of three of the figures behind it: Albion Tourgée, a white anti-segregationist lawyer and author who represented Plessy; Justice Henry Brown, who wrote the majority opinion permitting segregation; and Justice John Harlan, who wrote the lone dissent. It’s engagingly written, thoroughly researched, and full of unexpected details. Although there are times when it seems like more detail about shifting racial politics and the era’s prominent Black figures—and less about the lives of the three white attorneys—could better set the stage for the landmark case. There’s also comparatively little about Plessy himself, though Luxenberg does delve fairly deeply into the people behind the Comité des Citoyens, the civil rights group that engineered and backed the case. —Steven Melendez



The picture plane is a concept in visual art in which the surface of an image is imagined as a window, and the image itself performs the illusion of being beyond this aperture. “Hinge Pictures” breaks that illusion and invites us into the world behind the picture plane. This transition between two and three dimensions is the “Hinge” of the exhibit’s title, and all of the work in this show is hinged to some degree, vacillating between dimensions and creating a liminal space that exists between surface and image. Tomashi Jackson’s Interstate Love Song, for example, consists of prints on transparent acetate that hang from an awning, casting a shadow on the wall behind them, in which faces can be seen multiplied against the white surface. The image here is both printed and projected, and the substrate is the wall, the awning, and the floor beneath, where a pool of light has been refracted through the acetate. Ulla von Brandenburg’s Two Times Seven is a series of huge, colorful curtains arranged into openings through which the viewer steps, entering ever deeper into the artist’s world. Andrea Andersson has curated a very serious intellectual show that is also really fun. On view until June 16. —Harriet Burbeck


At Tulane’s Newcomb Art Museum, “Per(sister): Incarcerated Women in Louisiana” paints a visceral portrait of the female experience of imprisonment. This exhibit adds essential depth to New Orleans’ public conversations around mass incarceration, which can too often revolve around the cost in male lives, obscuring the rapid rise in this country’s female prison population over the last decade. Over 30 artists were paired with formerly incarcerated women, whose stories inspired each piece of art in the show. The results are wide-ranging and arresting, including a pop-art interpretation of the separation of an incarcerated mother and child, portraits of families composed of sewn-together prison guard uniforms, and a quilt beaded by Black Masking Indians bearing the names of over 100 women serving life sentences in Louisiana. The exhibit is broken into four rooms, each focused on a different aspect of the female experience of incarceration: the root causes of female imprisonment, the ripple effects of maternal incarceration, the physical, behavioral, and emotional experience of incarceration itself, and life after prison. A collaboration between the museum’s director, formerly incarcerated women, and community groups organizing around issues of incarceration, “Per(sister)” weaves together social science research, women’s personal narratives, and visual and auditory art installations to create an experience that is both deeply informative and intensely emotional. Emmeline Clein

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