The cozy Midtown West venue Ars Nova kicked off the first day of its 54/10 Music Marathon — 54 bands over a period of 10 nights — with an impressive line-up of local emerging artists on Tuesday night.

Given Ars Nova’s intimate setting and Lana Mír’s sexy black cocktail dress, one could be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled back in time and into a lounge in 1960’s Paris, or Rio. But alas, this was New York in 2010, and the venue was, naturally, smoke-free.  The Ukraine-born, New York-based singer-songwriter’s compositions are breezy and mellow, with influences as varied as Brazilian bossa nova and French pop, American jazz and even a sprinkle of British indie. 


With a stage presence that was reserved at times, Mír was nonetheless charming with her cool, airy vocals that recall Françoise Hardy or Marianne Faithfull. Accompanied by Darren Will on guitars and Jaret Van Fleet on keyboards, Mír also contributed a variety of percussion, from xylophone to egg shaker, as the group sailed through a delightful, melodious set of infectious tunes. 


Songs included in the set were the beautiful, melancholic “Return,” which Mír cited as her favorite song, “Unbreakable” and “Summertime.” She also performed a nice lo-fi cover of the Stone Roses hit “I Wanna Be Adored,” and closed with the peppy bossa-styled  “Goodbye Girl,” the title track from Mír’s first EP.  Her full-length, self-titled debut, produced by Andy Chase and Bruce Driscoll, will be released August 24 on Unfiltered Records. 

Headlining the evening was the always entertaining, folksy pop singer-songwriter Jay Brannan.  Armed with just his acoustic guitar, a smooth but powerful tenor voice and sense of humor, Brannan was endearingly funny as he laced his set with anecdotes about alcohol-fueled jaunts around New York, among other things.  At one point, when an adjustment was needed to the onstage monitor, Brannan even joked with the sound tech, “Please just make me sound talented!” 


With subject matter ranging from love and relationships to social commentary, Brannan’s lyrics are also often witty and sarcastic, as in “I’ll sell my guitar so I can buy myself a tractor,” from the song “Can’t Have It All,” but are just as often quite serious, as in the very poignant “Goddamned,” from the 2008 album of the same name, with its plea for an end to war, crime and hate. 

Brannan’s engaging performance was at times very emotional, as on the wonderful cover of the classic Cranberries’ song “Zombie,” from his 2009 album In Living Cover (released on Brannan’s own Great Depression Records).  Other songs in the set included “Soda Shop,” which he joked was his “dance hit,” and “Housewife.” –Teresa Sampson, Photos by Teresa Sampson