The kind of jazz-pop-rock that has faded in and out of style in the past 20 years (with a definite moment in the late 90s, courtesy of Fiona Apple) can be hard to nail, simply by virtue of its familiarity. What can read as intense, heady, and percussive can at the next moment come off as middling and dated. On a crisp Friday evening, a modest crowd gathered in the back room of Le Cagibi (5490 St. Laurent) for an intimate set that would prove to embody the best of the genre (if you can call it that) while sidestepping its pitfalls.
Bianca Muñiz, a Westchester, NY native and New School graduate now based in Manhattan, remained planted behind her keyboard, eyes often closed in concentration as her nimble voice danced across piano scales and skittering hi-hats in cuts like “Searching,” off 2016’s Scary Dreams EP. Muñiz’s voice is at times an instrument of feeling, sweetly swooping above the musical fray in “Searching,” and at times one of poppy precision, hiccuping along to stop-start drums in “Shadow World” — and it was only enriched by her sister Jacqueline Muñiz’s soaring harmonies. (The band might benefit from a more thorough usage of the latter Muñiz’s clear talents.)
Clanging piano met eerie vocal affectations, rock-band drums, and a powerful saxophone solo in jam-sesh highlight “Scary Dreams,” while “For You,” Muñiz’s most recent single, suggested a new direction. A slow, droning synth line bounced around the room, soon joined by Muñiz’s clear voice and then by plodding drums: less Fiona Apple, more Kelsey Lu. The song promises a cleaner, stripped-back, and even more focused sound to come.