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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)

 





Nataliya Nikitenko steps into brilliance in debut single "Oil & Water"

Nataliya Nikitenko debuts elegantly with a single titled “Oil & Water” that shows off her vocal prowess, fluid through a vivid lead piano melody that trickles as she ascends and descends flawlessly. With rich harmonies and well-timed string instrument swells to adorn the debut track with simmering feelings of loss and realizations of acceptance, the composition is a melancholic standout. An accomplished songwriter, having penned tracks such as Little Mix’s “No More Sad Songs (ft. Machine Gun Kelly)” and “Heavy” by Anne-Marie, Nikitenko joins the ranks of artists such as LP who step out of the shadows and into their brilliance, a spotlight awaiting them that no other could take. In “Oil & Water,” Nataliya Nikitenko appreciates the end of something, watching as it separates: the process, and its sound, are something to behold; stream the new single below. - René Cobar





Aaron Taos takes us on a wild ride with new single "Amnesia"

What does a modern-day breakout star look like in 2020? Eccentric, not so rough around the edges, sprinkled with extra glitz and a glamorous sound that takes many risks: maybe something like indie-pop persona Aaron Taos would do. Taos’ confidence, commitment to style, and music like “Amnesia,” featuring Saiah, which is colored with piercing guitar solos, go-crazy rhythms, and a let’s-see-what-happens attitude, is the perfect combination of intrigue and fun for a deep dive. The music video for the new track is just as wild and provides a glimpse at the type of energized character that Taos presents, one perfect for the grit and glitz of Los Angeles. “Amnesia” is part of Taos’ deluxe edition of his debut album, Birthday Boy, reissue; stream the new song below to join the festivities. - René Cobar





Sad13 "Haunted Painting" and poetry on the beach

Listening to Sad13’s second full-length album called Haunted Painting takes me back to my six-or-seven-year-old self and a trip to visit my aunt and juvenile delinquent high school cousin in the Spray Tan State and in particular our trip to the Disneyworld Industrial Complex widely known as the home of animatronic dead presidents and Johnny Depp singing “Yo Ho” to all the ladies. 

Of course it’s also home to the Haunted Mansion and all those paintings in the entrance hallway where when you look at them at first it’s like some baroness or something stretched out on her fainting couch but then before your very eyes she transforms into a spooky apparition like Medusa with snakes sprouting out her head or who knows what but some or other creepy character for sure and then you blink and it’s back to the baroness. Then before you know it you’re riding along in your bumper car and you look up into the mirror on the opposing wall and there’s a goddamn hitch-hiking ghost sitting on your head. That sh*t blew my six-or-seven-year-old mind.

 

Haunting Painting reminds me of all this. Band frontlady Sadie Dupuis--good name for a baroness, she also belongs to a band called Speedy Ortiz--pulls out all the stops and the starts on this album. What I mean by that is that many of the songs start off as one thing and then go around a corner and suddenly transform into another sonic apparition entirely. Like the single “Ghost (Of A Good Time)” that starts as a synth-based new-wavey “slappin’ bop” (sorry for the technical terminology there) but then a couple minutes later the groove suddenly drops away and a brief berserker guitar part swells up and ushers us into what sounds like a waltz for a haunted ballroom and soon there’s some beautiful harmonies and counter-melodies building layer upon layer before if finally goes back to the first section like nothing ever happened. You see what I mean about the portraits.

 Pull-quote: Sad13’s Haunted Painting is a pandemic Pet Sounds for shut-ins. The future’s looking febrile, indeed!

All in all even with all the charming pop elements this is a real headtrip album--headphones strongly recommended--there’s so many little ornate curly-cue details on the record that it rewards repeat listens. Ms. Dupuis & Co. reportedly recorded this album across roughly a half-a-dozen-or-so studios and they picked up whatever odd junk store odds ‘n’ ends they could wherever they went and that’s why you hear things like glockenspiels and pennywhistles (disclaimer: you may hear neither of these) which together with all the asymmetric twisty melodies and time-signature changes creates a cool funhouse mirror vibe. Relevant note: Sadie made it a point to work exclusively with female sound engineers on all the tracks which is a role that’s still a male-dominated enclave of the recording industry today so yea!

Be forewarned going in that, much like your average nominal “fun” house, there’s some scary stuff lurking in the dark even if all the shiny surfaces and candy-coated textures may distract you from the stuff. Except for when the dark stuff occasionally bubbles up to the surface like near the end of “Ruby Wand” which is mostly a straight-up Baroque electropop number until towards when it goes all haywire for a minute. Oh, and don’t listen to or read the lyrics if you don’t like the dark stuff. 

It’s all somehow insular and mind-expanding all at once. The whole aesthetic applies equally to the videos released alongside the album which are equal parts silly and creepy and strange and ornate. To give a couple examples on “Ghost” Sadie Dupuis goes all Cindy Sherman with the multiple personas who look right into your soul both seductively and ominously, and the video for “Hysterical” that riffs on the whole entire-movie-taking-place-on-a-computer-screen premise of 2014 social media horror flick “Unfriended” but updated here for the Zoom age. Also, Sadie essentially admits over the course of the video that she’s been stalking Wallace Shawn for ages so we’ve got some incriminating evidence for when Wallace goes missing.

Finally, I should mention that our fearless bandleader is based in Philadelphia and not New York City. But that’s ok I’m just going to go ahead and claim her as ours because Sadie’s life-altering turning point was self-reportedly when she transferred colleges from M.I.T. to Barnard, and changed her major from mathematics to poetry in the process, which led directly to her songwriting career. Yea Barnard University!

And finally finally the other reason to write about Sad13 at this very moment is that they’ll be appearing tonight as part of the No Bummer All Summer “Virtual” Beach Party with Sadie doing a “beach read” of her poetry--Could that be a Zoom background or the real thing? You be the judge!--as part of the evening’s lineup of performances, activities, and specials organized by Montreal shoegazers No Joy which all starts at 8PM EST. Check out details and get your tickets here. (Jason Lee)

 





Jordan Suaste ascends past heartbreak in new single "Patience"

Jordan Suaste is both the creator and spectator of the brilliant sonic rivers of romance that flow in his latest single, “Patience.” Where some would fear allowing their emotions to flow, Suaste does not as he flexes his vocal prowess to posh instrumentation comprised of cute piano leads and sway-inducing beats sprinkled with the sweetness of R&B. Suaste debuts in “Patience” a glossy heartbreak track that serves both as a winter warmer and a shinny treat you can’t help show your friends. As Suaste ascends vocally in the song’s bridge, you cannot help think he is a young man that knows where he is headed, and it is up there; take a moment to stream the new music video for “Patience” below. - René Cobar

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