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EXCLUSIVE: The artist known as LEONE brings on the heartbreak with "Talk To Me"

Okay, it’s the middle of the night as I’m writing this and I’ve had a few glasses of cheap Malbec from a bottle acquired at my local hooch hut with the double-paned glass and I’m just trying to figure out what to say about this extremely intense, emotionally unprotected song by LEONE, and its accompanying video slated to debut on the Deli today (here it is! directed by Rosie Soko!) and for starters I’m gonna say first of all that you should probably help yourself to a glass or three of cheap wine (except for recovering alcoholics, we respect you!) to get in a fitting mindspace for “Talk To Me” because it’s not a sober song at all and I don’t even mean this in the alcohol-imbibing sense but rather in the sense of being “muted, sensible, or solemn” because as a musical artist LEONE is none of these things (and thank goodness for that!) being very much willing to “lay it on the line” to the extent that you’ll be “laying it on the line” just by listening and viewing the video below that is if you’re fearless and foolhardy enough to check out this EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE not available to the general public until tomorrow (those clueless suckas!) and I’m just warning you that you’ll soon be huddled in your shower in the fetal position just like LEONE is in the music video because there’s no double-paned glass to protect you when it comes to “Talk To Me.”

With assistance by Peter Savad (co-production, mixing and mastering) “Talk to Me” is the second single and second music video from LEONE’s upcoming solo EP slated to be released in early summer (title TBD) and according to LEONE—formerly knows as Richie Bee and formerly known as frontman for the queer glam (redundant, I know!) band DEITRE for those keeping score at home—“I made a choice to get very personal and literal with this upcoming EP both lyrically as well as visually. I really wanted to paint the picture of the actual events that took place." And personally I love it when glamsters and punk rockers write power ballads because power ballads are supposed to have power goddammit, not to mention serious drama, and this one certainly ticks off both boxes.

And if you’re going to go out on a confessional limb and write a song about “the feeling of desperation after experiencing a lost connection” and a “song [that] personifies the loneliness that can live within a relationship” then it helps if you already understand battling-demons-thru-disclosure, not to mention transcendence-thru-transgression and ecstasy-thru-abjection, like any good glammy-punky rocker should and seriously just go watch Phantom of the Paradise or Velvet Goldmine if you don’t believe me. 

And here’s one cool thing that LEONE does musically to capture this state of agonized longing and vulnerability, a state that would lead someone to declare “you’re giving me the same ol’ silly lies / wrap my arms around you tight / so you know that I’m here” and that’s having the confidence to spend three-plus minutes slowly-but-surely ratcheting up the tension starting with delicate acoustic guitar and gradually adding new musical layers before finally bursting open like an overripe plum and it's certainly fulfilling when it happens.

And so it’s extra gutting when the song recedes back into itself in its final moments and you realize (as made even clearer by the music video) that this damn-bursting explosion of emotional release was only in LEONE’s head and that in reality he’s still trapped in a heartbreaking “lonely together” co-dependent relationship mired in a state of communication breakdown and I hope you’ll excuse me while I go and curl up in the shower.

But lest I end this review on a downer note, based on these two songs by LEONE, here’s a new musical artist who knows how to write shattering, ravishing songs which, let’s face it, play an important role in this world because who amongst us hasn’t suffered the loss of a loved one, whether on the physical plane (see “Monochrome Colors” above) or on the emotional plane. And how better to begin healing than with music that confronts trauma head on and turns it into something exquisite. (Jason Lee)


OTHERPEACE "Capitalism Blues"

OTHERPEACE recently released his debut full-length album, Capitalism Blues.

These are the Indie Folk sounds of singer and songwriter Matt Clark, an extremely well-known local vet who has been a member groups such as White/Light, Pinebender, Joan of Arc and Love of Everything.

You can catch OTHERPEACE at the Hideout on April 28th with Touched By Ghoul and David Zollo.


Phranque adds new chapter to the radical history of the ukulele

photo by Andrew Bisdale

People tend to think of Hawaii as this idyllic laid-back paradise full of hula dancers in grass skirts and coconut bras where everyone get sloshed on Mai Tais nightly at sunset lūʻaus on beaches full of chiseled surfers and letting-it-all-hang-out ukulele strummers where the worst thing you're likely to face is a cursed Tiki idol that’ll cause you to smash your souvenir ukulele and throw out your back hula dancing before being attacked by a big hairy spider and a spear-wielding Vincent Price archeologist—impressions formed by decades of deliriously kitschy Hawaii-themed pop-culture exotica ranging from Brady Bunch family vacations to Elvis playing the girl-happy scion to a Hawaiian pineapple fortune to Tom Selleck’s garish private dick wardrobe and magnum-sized mustache to an alarming number of cheese-laden rom-coms set on Hawaii half of which star Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston

But hey, don't get us wrong, we here at The Deli are hardly averse to kitsch (this writer proudly owns an autographed photo with Don Ho!) and could listen to twee-pop ukulele covers of the Misfits’ “Last Caress” for hours on end. Still, it's perhaps telling that no musical instrument has been so relentlessly kitsch-ified as the ukulele has been in the USA—which is why the Misfits covers are so pleasing, playing off the contrast between the lyrics about baby-murdering-and-mommy-violating and the cutesy associations of the "uke" kinda like if Glenn Danzig's kitty litter meme came to life. 

So it’s a nice change of pace to hear a ukulele-based song that dispenses with these associations, instead going for a haunted, hauntingly celestial vibe—the song in question being “The Haunted Mask of Lono” by the artist/entity known as Phranque. And it totally works, alternating between apprehensive pinprick arpeggiations and cresting-wave-of-nervous-tension choruses—the latter helped along by the spectral cello of Jane Scarpantoni (who makes all manner of spooky, shuddering atmospheric sounds) and the steadily churning rhythm section of Josh Davis on drums and Jason Smith on bass (see the top of this page for the video) all of which enhanced by the crystalline production work.

Lyrically, the song opens with the line “stranded here under starring skies” going on to describe a mask that once you “put it on, can’t take it off” culminating with yearning vocal overdubs in the uneasy, etherial choruses. And wouldn’t you know it, singer-songwriter-ukulelist Frank Gallo (better known as the longstanding frontman for Karabas Barabas, a hard-rocking Zappa-esque band known for its songs about “Connecticut” and “Brighton Beach”) not only wrote this song while “on vacation” in Hawaii (not the “scare quotes”!) but he wrote it about literally being masked and stranded—because after a few days of long scenic runs (fun fact: Frank runs triple-marathons in his downtime!) he developed a persistent cough and sure enough tested positive for Covid.

As a result he spent the rest of his Hawaiian trip in self-imposed “tropical prison” in his hotel room overlooking the beach. But hey, when life gives you rotten avocados why not make Rolie Polie Guacamole which is the name of Frank’s children’s music project. So he called up the local musical instrument store and had them leave a ukulele on the hood of his car and resolved to work on kids’ songs but his creative impulses struck out in other directions (as they will!) composing an entire LP’s worth of music inspired in part by a recent read of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s The Curse of Lono and its “bad trip” (in multiple senses!) illustrations by frequent artistic collaborator Ralph Steadman, a book that relates the pair's trip to Hawaii to cover the 1980 Honolulu marathon for a runner's magazine and then proceeding to have one of the worst vacations ever.”

Which is fitting on multiple levels because if you dig a little deeper, far from being “laid back” or “kitschy,” this tropical archipelago has had a pretty gonzo history itself. For instance, when English explorer Captain Cook first landed on the Hawaiian Islands at the end of the 18th century, he was assumed to be the fertility deity Lono in human form (also the god of music, and he's into surfing and rainbows!) due to some lucky happenstance. But after his naval crew spread tuberculosis and venereal diseases among the native population, and after Cook shot and killed a local chief, his luck unsurprisingly ran out, soon after being attacked and dismembered and with his ass literally delivering on a platter back to his countrymen (but still the name he gave to the islands stuck for over 50 years, i.e. “The Sandwich Islands” named after the actual guy who invented the sandwich).

Anyway, by the time six days passed in the hotel Frank had written ten new songs inspired by his unusual circumstances that, after being recorded months later at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, with finishing touches applied at Moon Studios in Brooklyn, will be made available to the general public on 5/27 under the title Mahalo Chicago (available for pre-order now, fool!) an album that according Frank/Phranque "reimagines what a ukulele album sounds like and falls somewhere in the realm of Pinkerton, Plastic Ono Band, The Eraser, Morning Phase, with a dash of Blood Sugar Sex Magic" and I would tend to agree.

Beyond its uniqueness in the present day, I would submit that Mahalo Chicago is actually a throwback of sorts that implicitly calls back to the more radical, experimental roots of Hawaiian uke music such as, for instance, the first big hit in Hawaii’s ukulele repertoire (also its first big “crossover hit” in the US) which is a song called “Aloha ‘Oe” (“Farewell To Thee”). "Aloha 'Oe" was written in 1878 by no less than the reigning monarch of Hawaii at the time who also happened to be a prolific songwriter, namely Queen Liliʻuokalani, who was both the first female to rule the territory and its final monarch

Placed under house arrest in 1893, Liliʻuokalani was dethroned by a coup d'état engineered by colonial interests that resulted in US annexation of the archipelago five years later (full statehood wasn't granted until 1959). Ironically, it was while under house arrest in the royal palace that the queen transcribed “Aloha ‘Oe," with the notation sent to Chicago for publication in sheet music form and ergo its subsequent crossover popularity was born.

According to sociologist Evelyn Chow, while "Aloha ‘Oe" was "initially composed…as a mele ho’oipoipo (love song) between a man and a woman, over the years it has been socially, politically, and culturally redefined by Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) into a song of melancholic farewell between the Queen and her realm." And with Hawaiian cultural practices in general—from hula to the Hawaiian language itself—all but banned from the islands after the U.S. overthrow, to even perform "Aloha ‘Oe" on the island was viewed as a form of protest. And likewise for other music where “the ‘sweet’ local songs, unintelligible to most visitors, often were anthems of protest against the new rulers.”

It was only with the rise of the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance and the parallel civil rights movement of the late 1960s and ‘70s that these cultural taboos were removed, leading to a new resurgence of slack-key uke music (a key part of the movement itself) along with the revival of other indigenous practices and, concurrently, new musical fusions (Hawaiian psychedelic folk music, anyone?) and a new wave of overseas Hawaiian exotica (full circle) with the Hawaiian struggle for self-determination persisting to this day so keep it in mind next time you hear to that cool ukulele cover of “Skulls” cuz it gives the song a whole new resonance! 

For more on some of the key musical artists of the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance you can check out names like Eddie Kamae, Gabby PahinuiPalani Vaughan, Leah & Malia, and Edith Kanaka-ole. And when you're done with that you can check out the sister EP to Mahalo Chicago comprised of three straight up rock songs recorded by Phraque at the same Electrical Audio sessions called 101.3 Krock New York and it's embedded for your convenience below. (Jason Lee)


Jennifer Hall "Belonging Forever"

Jennifer Hall has released her first single of 2022, an ethereal, synth-filled, pop gem called "Belonging Forever". This is the fourth single from Hall since the release of her self-titled debut EP back in 2015.

You can catch Jennifer Hall on April 26th at Golden Dagger with Debbie-Marie Brown.


Matt Gold "Midnight Choir"

Matt Gold has released the title track and third single, "Midnight Choir", from his forthcoming album which is due out on April 8th via Ruination Record Co. / Flood Music.

The album's opening track is called "Coming Up Shy" and was released last month along with the video below.

For this album Gold wrote and performed most everything but is joined at times by JT Bates, Anabel Hirano, and Bryan Doherty.


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