The moment you get a look at ALA.NI behind the Tiny Desk, you’ll notice it in the foreground: The singer asked us to record her set using her vintage RCA Ribbon microphone, which she carries around in a small briefcase between shows. It’s a security blanket, a bit of visual branding, a statement of stylistic intent — and, not for nothing, a big reason ALA.NI’s voice carries with such warmth and intimacy.
The microphone isn’t the only element of ALA.NI’s sound that seems to have been transported from another era. The London-born, Paris-based singer draws inspiration from her uncle, a British ’20s and ’30s cabaret star by the name of Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, and writes her own songs in the style of the standards he sang. You & I, her debut album, reverberates from the same spirit: It captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era. Here, she performs four songs from You & I, before closing her set with a heartwarming, crowd-aided “Happy Birthday” to her accompanist, Marvin Dolly.