Wandering around the streets of New Orleans, which is the best way to experience New Orleans, you’re just as likely to encounter Aurora Nealand playing soprano sax on the corner of Frenchmen and Royal with her traditional ragtime band, The Royal Roses, as you are to pass a club in the Quarter and hear the inventive, political art-pop she makes as a solo artist under the name Monocle. The intersections of Nealand’s music, and the ease with which she traverses the two, bottles some of the essence of the Crescent City. She revels in the tradition of bandleading, leaning on both musical and physical theater training as frontwoman of the Roses, but also tinkers away at the thoroughly modern, unnerving-in-the-best-way work she creates as Monocle. Nealand says her first Monocle record, to be released in April, has been brewing for years as she’s worked on other projects and built her career on streetcorners and clubs in New Orleans. What’s most impressive about that fact is that “Whistleblower,” the album’s first single, couldn’t be more timely. Either Nealand is prescient and had this song ready years ago, or she has seamlessly integrated a politics of kindness (the name of the record is KINDHUMANKIND), empathy, and revolution into the direction her solo work will take. Everything Aurora Nealand works on feels essential, whether it’s fashioned after a genre that peaked a century ago, or built entirely out of the technology and political circumstance of today.
Here’s the video for Whistleblower:
And a taste of the Royal Roses here: