I’m not much for highbrow lyrics. “Well I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down/But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town,” that’s a lyric I can get behind. “I lead a reckless life/ and I don’t need your advice”, I can deal with that, too. Ami Saraiya doesn’t have quite the sensibility of The Beach Boys nor Axl Rose. The album begins, “I’m lying down pregnant giving birth to these words/ With your hands on my stomach.” Watch out, boys, looks like we got a poet on our hands.
I read several other reviews of her work and “swampy” seems to be a common adjective used to characterize Ms. Saraiya’s product. Indeed, there is a certain New Orleans vibe here. Not necessarily in a simple stylistic sense, but in the endless mishmash of genres and instruments ranging from the overwrought cartoonish blues, with kazoo solos, of “Soundproof Box” to the backwoods bossanova of “Heart Shaped Locket”.
The other musical vibe here is that of genius movie composer, and Oingo Boingo mastermind, Danny Elfman. Elfman, famous for the theme from “The Simpsons” as well as for scoring pretty much everything Tim Burton’s ever done, knows how to play chaotically with the familiar. I don’t know if Elfman’s work was an influence on the musicians here but most of the record sounds like the playful ode to the silly side of darkness that characterizes the best of his work. The Italo-German circus waltz of “Cattleprod Hands”, in particular, would be a fine centerpiece song if Burton ever remade Cher vehicle “Moonstruck”.
Her voice takes some warming to. I am not sure that I have warmed. I get it, she is an emotionally burning singer/poetess coming at music from a quirky sideways perspective. That’s fine, but must every phrase be either moaned or jazzercised? It seems like a needles affectation to put on top of what might be a perfectly enjoyable voice. And the lyrics, well, I am obviously a poor one to judge. Aside from that I hope she keeps up with her accordion playing, because she’s fantastic.