Shilpa Ray is a Mercurial Savage
Last Year’s Savage is Shilpa Ray’s first formal full-length after splitting with her group, the Happy Hookers. While she’s dropped a few originals and covers over the last few years, she grabs the opportunity Savage provides to show off her artistic range.
Ray is often described in terms of other artists. She has Amanda Palmer’s sense of theatricality mixed with a downtown brashness not seen since Debbie Harry’s punk days. She can snarl like Courtney Love on her worst day or croon like Doris Day on her best. But more than these other artists, Ray is playful. She laughs, cries and fights her way through these songs as her cabaret swirls around her, crescendoing with guitar and accordion, or tip-toeing with soft piano plinks.
She lights a torch for independence on “Oh My Northern Soul” and “Pipe Dreams Ponzi Schemes,” singing “I’ve got my free will / And nobody’s gonna be my man / So thank God if all I take is your money.” She calls out an ex with the jokey “Shilpa Ray on Broadway,” and spits fire on “Moksha,” promising she’s “taking a dump in your holy water,” and on “Johnny Thunders Fantasy Camp,” she goes off on something about “flesh-eating cats and diabetes.” Her sense of whimsy is always on in both sound and lyric.
To listen to Shilpa Ray is to hear raw performance. If she is rehearsed, it doesn’t come across. She puts on a show like many a great dame before her. Her lyrics can be brutal and her voice can be cutting, but she is nothing but her genuine self in her work.