I saw Shilpa Ray play a small show at Burlington Bar here in Chicago at the beginning of March, and it was pretty great. So I’m not surprised that Last Year’s Savage is such a fantastic record-easily one of the best I’ve heard so far this year. The follow-up to 2013’s It’s All Self-Fellatio finds the singer more powerful than ever with vocals that never cease to shock and awe.
A lot of comparisons are made to Sharon Van Etten due to the shared harmonium element in their music, but I find that thinking way off base. Shilpa does play the harmonium, but I’d put her closer to a Stevie Nicks/Joni Mitchell hybrid, writing very intimate songs with no hint of pretentiousness.
The lyrics are strong in every track, but I think the standout is “Shilpa Ray On Broadway,” a carnival-style rock shuffle. She sings “Would you believe I’ve been mummified…I’ve got so much to say to you, but I’m not speaking. And I could believe you were lobotomized, cuz you could stand in front of me and have no feelings.” It’s a dark song (like, the blackest night you could ever imagine dark), but Shilpa’s wit and clever wordplay mix with the band to keep it effervescent.
The harmonium and vocals come to the forefront on “A Northern Soul” and it almost seems silly that the whole album isn’t just songs like this (for a second, and then you remember how good the other songs are). The lightly warped surf rock guitar in the background gives a washed out hazy feel to the atmosphere obscuring the time and place in which this music exists. Definitely one worth multiple listens.
You can check out Last Year’s Savage for yourself on Spotify or head over to the Shilpa Ray bandcamp page where you can hear even more great music. Also, while there you can purchase the 12″ vinyl.