Marnie Stern, "Vibrational Match" (YSI link)
Marnie Stern, "Absorb Those Numbers" (YSI link)
I've always been drawn to people who defy stereotypes or succeed in areas that are thought off-limits to various groups defined gender, race, religion, what have you. It explains my obsession with the lives of Jewish gangsters and fighters, for example. Marnie Stern fits right in the heart of this concept, a woman who plays prog-metal music with a technical skill unsurpassed. Others, more versed in the concept, might simply say that she shreds.
Her debut album, In Advance of the Broken Arm, was released early this year on the amazing Kill Rock Stars label and has gotten quite a bit of critical acclaim, most notably a great write-up in the New York Times. I definitely agree, as it made me, about as big a fan of guitar theatrics as I am of breast reductions, rawk out. Okay, I'm too old to rawk out, as I can hurt myself, but I have been loving the album since I first heard it a bit ago.
I figured the only way this review would be interesting is to figure out what makes this one get through and most other metal-ish records fall flat. To boil it down, I'd say that the album loses the aggression that I associate with this type of music, like screamed vocals or masturbatory looooooong guitar solos. Two songs break the 4 minute barrier, the rest are in the 2-3 minute range; when she does go in for the technical, million notes a minute kind of thing, it's usually as concise as these things can be, oftentimes linking up with the furious drums of Zach Hill of Hella to create the sound of a runaway rock train. Most of all though, like most indie/rock music, it's the vocals that take it over the top. Her voice has this great sound, unpolished, girlish at times, aggresive at other times.
Clearly, I recommend this one. Grab a copy here so that you too, when you are in the mood, can rawk the fuck out. Also, if anyone would like to send in some suggestions or recommendations on this kind of music, the metalesque stuff that I know has gotten a lot of attention the past few years, it would be much appreciated. I feel like I should check out this end of the spectrum, see what I've been missing.