All of these musical adventures quietly saturate “Live at the Heartbreak Hotel,” an album of fluid, polyglot pop spiked with splashes of “Tropicalia, bossa [nova], blues, punk and no-wave,” the 25-year-old says. But, Stokes says, he never set out to make genre-punch. He’s more interested in mood, and he cultivates it by inviting his collaborators to score the little vignettes that pop into his head.
“I’ll tell my keyboard player something like, ‘Yo, all right, you just got dumped the weekend before your buddy’s wedding, so you’re going stag, and it’s 1979, you’re in Santa Barbara near the beach,’ ” Stokes says. “ ‘You stumble into a bar, and they have a piano there. What do you play?’ ”
It isn’t hard for Stokes to conjure these imaginary scenes, because “there’s heartbreak in everything,” he says, flashing an incongruously enthusiastic smile. For Stokes, a busted heart feels like . . . what, exactly? “Mysterious,” he says. “Strange.” So the fundamental thing he’s trying to communicate is that heartache feels weird? “Yeah, definitely,” he says. In music, “strangeness is the tightest thing.”
Show: Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at Studio Ga Ga, 2218 18th St. NW. $5.