MARNIE STERN plays Parts & Labour on Tuesday (April 16). See listings. Rating: NNNN
Marnie Stern's much-vaunted fret-tapping skills have earned her the title "the lady who shreds," but the New York City experimental rock musician's six-string acrobatics don't take centre stage on her fourth album. They're more like dazzling background noises, adding massive doses of interest to each song and upping the emotional stakes.
It's Kid Millions's explosive drumming that's upfront, along with Stern's high, young-sounding vocals, which deliver urgent blasts of positivity - and intermittent despair. The lyrics are like anguished mantras brimming with hope. "Everything starts now!" she repeats over a herky-jerky structure and brisk, skittering rhythms. "Nothing is easy!" "I'm losing hope in my body!" "Don't you want to be somebody?" "I am something! I am someone!"
Compared to her earlier work, there's less vocal weirdness and fewer layers (though the songwriting is still Deerhoof-level unpredictable and varied). She's said the approach, motivated by producer Nicolas Vernhes, scared her to death. It needn't have: she sounds like she's rediscovering the thrill of making music, and a nervy triumph pervades.
Top track: Year Of The Glad