Singer Ashley Groves and her band will play a release show supporting her new album “Bad Idea” at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Submitted photo

Singer Ashley Groves and her band will play a release show supporting her new album “Bad Idea” at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Submitted photo

Best Picks: Jan. 11–24

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Groovin’ with Groves

Ashley Groves’ childhood dream was to become a pop star like Britney Spears.

Now 23 — and a little more grounded — the Wisconsin native and Elliot Park resident has hit a major milestone of her musical career with the release of her debut album, “Bad Idea.”

While not a Top 40 pop record by any stretch of the imagination, “Bad Idea” is a big and bold debut that shows off Groves’ emotive voice amid a backdrop of jazzy and soulful arrangements.

It’s certainly not bad for someone who just graduated from college. Groves went to school to become a recording artist, studying music theory at downtown’s North Central University. On the record, she’s joined by her band: Brothers Dayton (guitar) and Simeon Brock (bass), along with Joel Pruitt (drums), Andrew Frederick (keyboard) and Rachelle LaNae Smith (background vocals, cello).

Her name may not be new to many Twin Cities concert goers. Since forming her band in 2015, Groves has played a show nearly every month, with performances at the Dakota Jazz Club, Turf Club and Icehouse. Groves played the latter as the local act before Xenia Rubinos, a neo-soul artist whose own debut album led to a national tour.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Back in 2015, Groves said her band was more like Alabama Shakes, whereas now she sounds more like Lianne La Havas, who blends jazz, R&B and pop into a light, confessional kind of soul music.

“It really doesn’t have a genre. It’s really hard to put it in a box,” she said.

Introspective and at times longing, “Bad Idea” maintains its positivity. Despite its name, the title song manages to sound infectious as Groves sings about answering the undeniable and unpredictable call of love. The track finds Groves convincing herself to admit her feelings, starting in a slow whisper that builds up and quickens its pace into a confident and climactic release (“I hit a D [note],” she says proudly). Finally, a release (“It’s done / it’s done / and I’m done”).

“I feel like I try to keep a healthy mindset with these songs and what I’m going through at the time,” she said.

Groves infuses the record with bits of her own story. “Auf Deutsch” — meaning “in German” and how Germans pronounce Ashley, she said —  was inspired by a semester in Europe (“I cross the sea / I cross the dunes / I cross the sea / I cross the blue / I miss you / And the way you say my name”).

The result is a vocally adventurous batch of songs that are full of colors and feeling, be they smoky and loungey, triumphant and gospel-like or warm and loving.

Groves and her band will play songs from “Bad Idea” at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Locals Mina Moore and Seaberg, an alternative jazz and hip-hop band fronted by Taylor Seaberg, join the lineup.

Hip cat

HOP CAT BY EB featureHopCat has only been in Minneapolis for about six months now, but that won’t stop the Michigan-based restaurant chain from celebrating its 10th birthday in the Twin Cities. The restaurant and bar, which opened its first location in Grand Rapids in 2008, will start an anniversary party at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20 and celebrate all day with “never-brewed-before” beers, contests and more. HopCat promises free orders of its signature Crack Fries and 10 exclusive beers — of course, you’ll have the bar’s 80 taps to choose from. For $5, HopCat lovers may join the annual Crack Fries eating contest, which will give them six minutes to eat as many as the seasoned French fries as they can for various prizes. The city’s own HopCat can be found on the ground floor of Nic on Fifth, just steps away from the recently reopened Nicollet Mall Station.

100 percent organ-ic

Five Watt hosts one of Northeast’s more unusual music nights. For the past several weeks, the café’s new East Hennepin location has been home to organ music, interestingly enough. On Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. musicians Toby Lee Marshall (organ) and Andy Boterman (drums) play groovy tunes as part of a Totally Organ-ic music series. During those two hours, you’ll get $2 off the café’s beer, wine and cocktails. Catch the last show on Jan. 18 at the café, located on the ground floor of the Miller Textile building.

You could make it an evening with a very short walk over to HeadFlyer Brewing, conveniently located in the same building. Or get a group together to check out Mission Manor, a live escape room game in the basement.