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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As You Like It,
The alarm bells started to ring when you heard your favourite frantic guitarist talking about how her new record will showcase an increased focus on songwriting. They only got louder when it became obvious that this would also be a more directly emotional album than the two that preceded it.
Since you already live in a world full of singer-songwriters, their mouths full of trite metaphors, always happy to take up the first tired chord progression that comes to hand, you had no desire to the artist who was at the heart of the careful frenzy of In Advance of the Broken Arm and This Is It reduce herself to that level. Turns out needn't have worried. Marnie Stern (the album) is not a reduction but a condensation of Stern's previous accomplishments. The reduced tracklisting should provide a hint as to what's really going on here: everything that was present on Stern's first two albums is here in its purest, most compressed form. What this means is that roughly half the tracks here feature Stern's most direct and muscular compositions yet (from the ringing clarity of `Transparency is the New Mystery' and `Risky Biz' to the monstrous, Steve Albini-esque guitar and bass parts of `Her Confidence', which are fierce enough to send even Zach Hill's drums skittering in their wake), while the other half are overloaded to the point where they hit My Bloody Valentine-esque depths of synesthetic delirium.
Opening track `For Ash' drowns a lament for a deceased ex in waves of crashing percussion, hammer-on guitar, and wailing vocal chants. When the Stern manages to make the same sentiment scream through the noise of the latter `Cinco de Mayo', it becomes obvious that the aforementioned emotional content *is* here, and equally obvious that it has always been a part of Stern's approach song-writing. Stern's songs have always teetered on the brink of chaos, but the stakes are higher here, the longing for something resembling a genuine connection more desperately felt.
This description might make Marnie Stern sound like a drearily self-important record, but Stern's commitment to playful lyrical conceits and joyous noise stop that from being a problem - `Female Guitar Players Are the New Black' and `Gimme' see Stern sounding freer and more alive and confident in the chaos than ever before, while `Building a Body' manages to both reference Field of Dreams and provide a conceptual sequel to `Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling' over yet another riff that should shame most of Stern's contemporaries into early retirement.
Closing track `The Things You Notice' sees Stern going solo, letting the warm fuzz of a few slowly strummed chords overwhelm the twinned guitar and vocal melodies. The sublimation of song into noise is a happy one here, an illusion of blissed out contentment that is perfectly fitting for a song about new love, and every bit as fleeting, every bit as easily dispelled when the album stops and you find yourself pressing play, starting the whole cycle over again.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fierce, ferocious, and angular but still manages to pack a melodic punch,
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Marnie Stern's third album is a 'keeper'. I'm now a devoted fan, despite my initial reservation when I read that Stern's music is sometimes labelled Math Rock (could there be a more off-putting musical tag?). First song, FOR ASH, is emotionally powerful. It has a beautiful chorus which highlights all of Stern's gifts: her utterly original melodic sense, the multi-layering of her girlish-but-fully-committed voice, the stunning drumming and the guitar virtuosity. The rest of the album is more angular than FOR ASH, but like a lot of good things in music, absolutely repays repeated listenings. So much of Stern's success resides in how her songs reveal layer upon layer of surprises and pleasure. For me, she's the freshest, most original rocker to emerge since Polly Jean Harvey and Sleater-Kinney. May she rock for a goodly long time.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty In Flames,
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Marnie Stern is an American songwriter and guitarist.
She has released two earlier albums, neither of which I
have heard. This third outing, therefore, marks my initiation
into her singular and occasionally alarming world.
Let there be no doubt Ms Stern is a wild one. There is enough
raw energy captured in these ten songs to illuminate a city the
size of Birmingham (pop 1,028,700 or thereabouts) in the event
of a total power blackout!
This is blisteringly, rumbustious, uplifting, brain-wrenching,
skin-tingling stuff! (That's a very good thing by-the-way!)
She is well supported in her noisy endeavours by drummer
(and album producer) Zach Hill; Matthew Flegel/bass and
Lars Stalfors/keyboards. This is an ensemble with the
capacity to make the very earth tremble beneath our feet!
Ms Stern knows how to wring some extraordinary sounds from
the neck and body of her guitar. Listen to the wonderful
sturm und drang of the complex chords and finger-work on
'Gimme' for immediate elucidation. Her hair-raising technical
acuity is truly thrilling and that's before we get to her voice!
She spits and snarls and shrieks her way into our hearts with
the kind of brattish, punky charm which only comes around once
or twice in any decade. The voice cuts and burns and takes
no prisoners. Your Gran probably wouldn't like it!
There is little respite in this sublimely cacophonous collection.
It's a one-way ticket on a madly rolling runaway train to hell.
Opening track 'For Ash' is one of the most exhilarating songs
I have heard this year. The mad-as-a-March-hare structure and
time-signatures create an almost impenetrable wall of sound
in the centre of which Ms Stern howls at the moon with her hands
and hair ablaze like a frenzied Harpie.
In comparison 'Nothing Left' is very nearly a pop song!
Following a strangled introduction, which struts it's stuff
like a love-child of Lenny Kravitz and Robert Fripp, a raucous,
up-beat, melody emerges which storms along like a line of
out-of-control cheerleaders. Blissfully barmy stuff!
Final track 'The Things You Notice' digs deep and comes back
with a curious kind of warmth and fragility. A beautiful
conclusion and Ms Stern's finest moment by a mile. Stunning!
With each successive listen I find myself loving this
extraordinary album more and more. A fine achievement.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Good As Anything released in 2010,
I liked her previous 2 albums but who would have thought she could come up with something this good.
Great album that gets better with each listen.
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