Album Review: Hank & Cupcakes Self-titled EP

For the past year or so the duo of Ariel and Sagit, better known as Hank & Cupcakes, have played relentlessly at seemingly every hip venue in New York. In so doing, they have established themselves as one of those uniquely elite groups that one simply must see. On Wednesday, May 12 the band will celebrate the release of their debut EP at Le Poisson Rouge. Fortunately, for this dirty hipster, Hank & Cupcakes, and the burgeoning NY-scene on the whole, this EP not only translates their live show into recorded form, but, in rare fashion, delivers an even grander glimpse of the band’s ability.

Hank & Cupcakes

The album kicks off with “Ain’t No Love,” the band’s indelible, straightforward banger that historically gets the crowd dancing more than any other in the set. In classical H&C fashion the two awesome musicians manage to make drums, voice and bass sound like a five-piece band. Something refreshing about the recorded version is the purity of Cupcake’s vocals, which are occasionally marginalized by the electrifying performance. This is a recurring theme throughout the four-track EP (five, if you count the music video for “Pleasure Town), and at no point is this more apparent than on the duo’s one ballad, the beautiful and lilting, “Roses.”

Cupcakes delivers her vocals with a gentle grace that this dirty hipster wasn’t aware she could. Subtle tinges of vibrato make her voice flitter over an understated rhythm section. It’s here that we also find Hank, not surprisingly, expressing the utmost taste in restraining his virtuosic ability for the sake of supporting and not crowding the song itself.

Apologies for harping on the track that least represents the strobe-light dance pop that defines Hank & Cupcakes, but “Roses” stands out as a captivatingly honest and delicate tune. This isn’t the salacious, sexual Cupcakes here, the one who stands on her drum throne and beckons the male – and possibly the female – members of the crowd to swoon over her curves, but this is a touching ballad from a daughter to her father. Lines like, “My face is lined from the wind / Now you are letting me back in,” and “I have let myself go / You have religion to hold you” speak of an astute consciousness in dealing with a disparity in the father-daughter relationship, but render the kindred connection strong nevertheless. Such unexpectedly touching sentiment broadens the scope of their songwriting prowess and make Hank & Cupcakes, as individuals and not simply artistic spectacles, as human and ordinary as they are special and talented.


“Pleasure Town” directed by Mark Bockelman

The music video for “Pleasure Town,” directed by Mark Bockelman matches the direction of the recordings: let the creativity of and chemistry between the two musicians carry the production. It’s fun, it’s stylish and it’s perfectly Hank & Cupcakes. The self-titled, self-released freshman EP is perfect, and certainly gives this original duo what the firepower they’ll need to change Hank & Cupcakes from New York’s favorite import into its proudest export. -DFH

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