ANYA MARINA > Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II

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Signed to Grey’s Anatomy uber music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas’ Chop Shop Records, Anya Marina’s hotly anticipated major label release Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II deliberately seems streamlined for an estrogen-soaked, crymax or an Old Navy sweater ad. Either way, it’s a brilliant piece of commercial engineering masquerading as a cutting-edge indie release.Label: CHOP SHOP/ATLANTIC
[Rating: 3.5 STARS]

Signed to Grey’s Anatomy uber music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas’ Chop Shop Records, Anya Marina’s hotly anticipated major label release Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II deliberately seems streamlined for an estrogen-soaked, crymax or an Old Navy sweater ad. Either way, it’s a brilliant piece of commercial engineering masquerading as a cutting-edge indie release.

And despite a few missteps here and there, Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II has Billboard Heatseaker stamped all over its deliciously upbeat self. With Spoon frontman Britt Daniel’s deceptively infectious rhythmic looping, lead single “All the Same to Me” boasts a mid-tempo groove, filled with mournful muted trumpets and slinky vocals. It’s quite catchy, and will most likely draw easy comparisons to KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” sans the digital clickbacks. Working with Daniel and Louis XIV guitarist Brian Karscig, Marina’s Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II becomes a Tuesday Night Music Club for the cyber-era with its tightly crafted folk-pop strummers ensconced in glitchy production.

All the while, Marina sings in a conversational tone. Her vocals sound disarmingly sweet on the introspective ballads, snarly and slightly dangerous on the more uptempo fare. The slower songs like “Move You” and “Cowboy” offer varying results. The former begins with a lightly plucked acoustic melody, which suddenly kicks into a revved-up “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”-lite framework. Marina’s non-diegetic gifts are less evident on “Cowboy” with its loose-limbed countrypolitan shuffle and paper-thin vocals. “Said he was damaged over whiskey, yeah, kind of Kerouac over cigarettes,” Marina sings. Despite her full-fledged character study, “Cowboy” comes across as background music for the background music.

But even amid the Mad Woman clutter, Marina is still honing her creative chops. The raucous “Afterparty at Jimmy” swaggers in a talky, half-sung literally neener-neener chorus. “So I saw you at the fair, right? With your art school glasses and your bad head of hair,” she yelps in the opening’s blistering come-off. The single harkens back to Marina’s early rough edges as displayed on her five-song EP Exercises in Racketeering.

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