Bummer. I’ve been feeling a bit snarky lately and I was hoping to find a hopelessly arrogant piece of music this week to allow me to release pent-up frustrations and restore my equilibrium. I also felt I needed to balance this blog, as I’ve been stumbling across some really great music lately and my recent reviews have tilted to the positive.
I have an image to protect, people! Balance, fairness and delightful bitchiness!
Unfortunately, the album I picked this week is Anya Marina’s latest, Felony Flats, which turned out to be an absolute stunner.
Sigh. I guess I’ll have to find another way to rid myself of this inner tension. Oh well, there’s always the riding crop.
Back to Anya. Her last album, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II was kinda fun; it didn’t knock my socks off, but it showed a lot of promise. She’s definitely lived up to her promise on Felony Flats, which is much tighter, more powerful and seriously sexy. Better still, she’s taken her lyrics to a higher level while avoiding the self-absorbed mindset of most singer-songwriters.
The album kicks off with get-up-and-move-it rocker “Body Knows Best,” with the ultimate sing-along verse, “Body knows best/never mind the rest/mind is a tether/holding you together too tight,” with the music exploding on the “too tight” phrase. This is followed by the disarming music of “Notice Me,” which hardly prepares you for the powerful chorus, “I wonder if you notice me … notice me … I’m the one in your bed.” It’s a strikingly honest song about a relationship that is disconnected from physical reality where Anya advises the guy she’s stuck with, “Check your heart, check your head.” Good idea.
“Believe Me, I Believe” is an electronic dance number, but much more seductive than most in that genre. It’s definitely going on my sex scene playlist. After that hot piece of music, it’s back to dysfunctional relationships with “Hot Button,” where we get more direct, practical female honesty:
I feel you under my collar, I feel you under my skin,
You’re never gonna get under the covers, unless you’re good at uncoverin’
Sometimes Anya purrs like a sex symbol and sometimes she sounds like a sweet little girl. Don’t let that persona lead you to assume that she doesn’t have serious emotional intelligence and a poet’s ear. This is best demonstrated in the next song, “Nothing to Go On,” where after an a capella opening, we hear a verse that defies the listener’s expectations:
Someday I’ll wake up on the sidewalks of the moon,
With a Polaroid of that old saloon,
Where we fell in love over a long-forgotten beer,
Ghosts of your laughter, a song in my ear
Ghosts of your laughter, a song in my ear.
The band then kicks in with “Flinty,” a crunch guitar rocker with appropriate smoky sass and an irresistible mover. “You Are Invisible” is a dramatic sort of hard-disco number with much more sonic diversity than you hear in most dance numbers. There is no way you cannot absolutely love this woman’s voice on this song and how she vacillates between breathy and melodic with both discipline and flow.
The album shifts to “Heart Stops,” which qualifies as the dark mid-tempo rocker of the album. For me, it was a bit long and the least attractive song on the album. Fortunately, it’s followed by the samba-like opening of “Speakeasy,” which is about as perfect an arrangement as you can get: driving, tight, great counterpoints from the band over a steady quick heartbeat rhythm. The album ends with the title cut “Felony Flats,” where Anya takes us to neighborhood where the houses have bars on the windows and a way of life that she had to escape but which will always be part of her (“can’t erase/from your veins/you can’t begin/’till you can face/what’s at your back”). A dark ending, to be sure, but an indication of additional promise if Anya decides to explore the conflict between self and culture (without getting too English major on us).
I read that Anya relocated from California to Portland between albums. Great move. Felony Flats has more depth and many more surprises than her previous work without sacrificing any of the seductive playfulness that makes her so compelling.
Yes, people, women can be sexy AND perceptive AND intelligent all at the same time. We are amazing creatures, indeed. You’ll find full confirmation of this on Felony Flats.