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Shilpa Ray

Shilpa Ray's "Portrait of a Lady" Feels Ever More Relevant Day By Day

photo by Ebru Yildiz

 Written and recorded over the past couple years and completed/released in late April of this year, Shilpa Ray's Portrait of a Lady (Northern Spy Records) feels like it was created for this precise moment in time with 12 songs that come across like 12 chickens come home to roost in a world full of cocks—the portrait of an lady navigating a society fast backsliding into hypocritical quasi-Victorian morality and unrestrained Wild West-style savagery with a bunch of entitled-but-still-insecure straight cis white guys running the show or trying to anyway but then Shilpa Ray might rightfully reply that's how it's nearly always been...

...and this record could just as easily be titled Portrait of the Early 21st Century Crisis of Masculinity and the Catastrophic Consequences For All Involved but that’d be an inelegant and needlessly defeatist title for an album that's neither of those things and that moves from the personal to the political and vice-versa with elegance and determination across a series of character studies ranging temperamentally from a feral-level ferocity to blurry-eyed wistful resignation and from clear-eyed righteous fury to fuck-it-all gallows humor...

…like on the Shirelles-meets-Liz-Phair-meets-Beach-House classic-girl-group-worthy power-ballad-of-disempowerment not so succinctly titled “Heteronormative Horseshit Blues” which is kind of a "Subterranean Homesick Blues" for icy blonde Hitchcock heroine types who realize they no longer give a shit about the patriarchy, in other words it's a vivid, heart-rending song featuring lines like “how I’ve dreamed of dropping my snatch in the Staten Island landfill / so I’d no longer be a slave to biology / though I could conquer the fate of a snatchless women / why must every move I make be a defense against you?” drawing upon bonkers imagery and emotional reckonings and simmering/sublimated musical backings to fully inhabit the mindstate of the song's desperate protagonist...

…a song narrated from the perspective of self-willed alter-ego Doris Daydream and sung to another alter-ego named Danny LeDouche both of whom depicted by Shilpa Ray herself in the music video directed by Amos Poe with characters that appear to have walked straight out of a Cindy Sherman photograph but real-to-life in terms of the “power dynamics and conforming gender rolesat play in abusive relationships but which often hold sway in more “normative” relationships as well…

...and with the music carrying equal weight in bringing these vivid scenarios and emotional states to life through a mix of barbed slow-burn sociopolitical torch ballads and furious torch-the-joint rock-n-roll rave ups (see "Manic Pixie Dream Cunt" for an example of the latter) with no shortage of '80s-style-sparkling-synth-driven-new-wavery-but-with-a-Lene-Lovich-level-of-edginess tossed into the mix too like all of the sudden you're watching one of those artsy strip club numbers from Flashdance and if you don't believe me just play “Lawsuits and Suicides” in tandem with the dance sequence above and tell me Shilpa's song isn't a Jennifer Beals-worthy bop, but a bop that acts as an exposé of male ego and mentally abusive gaslighting behavior which taken together may seem like more weight than a single song can hold but Portrait of a Lady is full of examples to the contrary...

…ranging from the glam-damaged, piano-led melodicism of the incels-in-training-themed “Charm School For Damaged Boys” to the pulverizing fury of  “Manic Pixie Dream Cunt” to the Weinstein-and-Kavanaugh-eviscerating stripped-down-dream-pop balladry of “Straight Man’s Dream” (“spend your seed / across the houseplants / of some hotel bar”) to the Susan Collins-eviscerating lighter-waving-ballad-cum-dancefloor-filler “Bootlickers of the Patriarchy” and really you just can’t beat these song titles…

…so if you’re looking to get your fix of a contemporary artist who's something like Lou Reed meets Lydia Lunch meets Asha Bhosle meets Billie Holiday meets Patti Smith meets Nick Cave meets Pirate Jenny but for the 2020s (I'm making this all up as I go along of course@) then you're in luck and btw Shilpa Ray just played a show with Lydia Lunch so there ya go (not making it up!) so check out Portrait of a Lady if you haven't already because that's what it's all about. (Jason Lee)

Historian's corner: Curious what The Deli had to say about Shilpa Ray and her music back in late 2014 in an actual print issue of the magazine? Curious what the hell a "print issue" is? Back in the day Deli scribe John McGovern observed that "Shilpa Ray has one of those voices that is simultaneously haunting and beautiful [and] her music does not cower or sneer in the face of darkness. It is mature, valuing the truth over appearing hip, and jaded. And that complexity is equally striking in her lyrics. Her songs have some seriously hard-hitting lines of the kind that will make you re-evaluate your life" and the more things change...


Shilpa Ray celebrates LP release show at Pianos 09.20 & 09.21

Within the The Deli's archives we commended Shilpa Ray several times -- lauding her noir music, stubborn-yet-honest lyrics, and unapologetic delivery -- but her newest work is doing more than that. Though her new September LP isn't out yet, she gives us a glimpse of what's to come with new single, “EMT Police and the Fire Department”. This song is one of a dystopian Lower East Side, so abject it requires the EMT, police, and the fire department to be called. "The air was so thick, you cut it with a knife, and the crowds were so thick, it would make you wanna cut them with a knife" she recants through spoken word over what resembles a sound check. The story’s setting degrades as the song shapes together, and she repeats the title over a building drumbeat, ultimately exploding unlike anything we’ve seen from her -- her jarring lyricism taking on the shape of a new beast delivered through ferocious yelps. This is as unforgiving as Ray has ever gotten. Door Girl, the upcoming LP, is inspired by her time working at Pianos; it’s only fitting her album release will be celebrated there two nights in a row, this coming September 20th and 21st. - Pearse Devlin

Check out the music video for her song below.

A bill of NYC indie pillars at Glasslands on 12.23: Backwords, Shilpa Ray, Dragons of Zynth and Economy Punk (ex Xray Eyeballs)

It would be interesting to know how many people move in and out of NYC every year - hundreds of thousands we guess? This is a city that fuels all sorts of dreams only to crush them the minute you stop believing. In its scene, where new bands are born and not so old ones die on an hourly basis, the artists that manage to stick around for longer than a few years become the true pillar of the musical community. The same can be said for a venue that consistently promotes quality local acts like Glasslands. As you know, the Williamsburg spot will be closing its doors at the end of 2014, and, looking at its last few weeks of calendar, we couldn't help but notice the Tuesday 12.23 bill, which features four quality local artists that we covered abundantly for years and that have earned the title of "NYC scene pillars." We are referring to psych folk collective Backwords (in the picture, playing Glasslands a few years ago), maudit rock songwriter Shilpa Ray, Economy Punk (ex Xray Eyeballs') and Dragons of Zynth, an indie soul act that has been around at least since we started this blog (that was 2005) and that occasionally comes back when you least expect it. Definitely a good opportunity to say goodbye to this legendary but short lived venue, and meet some familiar faces.

Booked at CMJ: Bowmont unveils video for Hovering + plays Glasslands on 11.13

Bowmont ended up on our CMJ 2014 Electronic Stage at Pianos at the last minute, and we couldn't have been happier to have them, since their put on a great show. The band has coined a very personal, moody brand of pop that could be defined impressionistic, if not pointillistic: it's as if their songs emerged from silence like a sonic mosaic created by the combination of many tiny fragments of sound. The quartet just unveiled this video for their song "Hovering," featuring Shilpa Ray (who also played at Pianos that night on our Indie Stage). Check it out below and don't miss them when they play live at (soon to be closing) Glasslands on 11.13 with like minded Brooklynites Mon Khmer. -  Photo by Fabrizio Del Rincon


Jeffery Lewis plays Palisades on 10/4 with Shilpa Ray and Palberta

Jefferey Lewis has been recording New York anti-folk heart-bleeders since the 90's.  He was and is a staple in the anti-folk movement among contemporaries like The Moldy Peaches and Lach to name a few.  His lyrics are incredibly literate and are always an insightful exploration of language and expectations. They mold into long tangents of candidly crafted sentences which unfold into beautiful stories of life and living, no surprise as he's also a successful comic as well as musician.  On October 4th he will be joined by noir chanteuse, Shilpa Ray (who will be playing our CMJ showcase at Pianos on 10.24) and  balanced out by the experimental-punk trio Palberta.  Be sure not to miss it! -Jake Saunders @The_Colonel63


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