Over the better part of the past decade, New York-based singer/songwriter, harmonium and keyboardist Shilpa Ray has developed a reputation for being one of the city’s most compelling and unsung artists, with her first band, the gothic focused Beat the Devil, whose sound possessed elements of punk, jazz and folk with Indian time signatures, and her second band Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, whose sound possessed elements of the blues, punk, rock and others. And although both bands’ sounds were subtly different, they had one obvious thing in common – Shilpa Ray’s incredible vocals, which channels the big voiced, torch-burning blues singers of the past. So it shouldn’t be surprising that thematically, the material generally dealt with desperate and furiously wrenching heartache.
Her soon-to-be released effort, Last Year’s Savage continues Ray’s long-time thematic obsessions with sex, death, bodily functions and betrayal but it also reportedly reveals an artist whose work has gone through a profound change in approach. Whereas Ray’s earliest work is a furious howl of pain and heartache, the new album’s material conveys a deeper sense of existential resignation – but just under the surface, the simmering resentment and discontent of someone who’s been disenfranchised, held down, abused and worn out.
“Pop Song for Euthanasia,” the first single from Last Year’s Savage is a song that possesses elements of old time murder ballads and old torch songs simultaneously as the song evokes a heart aching regret with an emotional directness and sincerity that’s rare and yet profoundly necessary in an age where prepackaged, mass produced pabulum is foisted upon us on a daily basis. And by doing so the song captures the bruised psyche and mindset of heartache with a novelist’s attention to detail that feels as though it comes from a real, lived-in place.