All too often, fantastic music fails to find those it is sure to make a connection with. Gemma Ray is one such artist whose far reaching appeal has yet to find the wide audience her music deserves. Ray, an Essex-born Berliner, has maintained a flawless musical output over the last few years and her imaginative take on bombastic noir-rock sets her apart from many of her tamer, less ambitious contemporaries.
Sincerely, everyone should dive into Ray’s diverse set of albums such as 2012’s ‘Island Fire‘ or 2010’s ‘Lights Out Zoltar!‘, both of which are incredibly accomplished in their delivery, scope and ambition. Not one to do what’s expected of her, last year’s largely voice-free ‘Down Baby Down‘ scuppers anyone’s attempts at trying to define who Gemma Ray is and probably offers some explanation for why she hasn’t found wider success. One thing for sure is – Gemma Ray is different and Gemma Ray rocks.
2014 marks the release of a new album from Ray – the abstractly titled ‘Milk For Your Motors‘. Her first collection of ‘songs’ in 2 years, ‘Milk…’ is further proof that her supreme talent for songwriting should be paid attention to. Her sharp ear for melody again is in evidence throughout these 12 songs. Unexpectedly, the album begins with the deep voice of Giant Sand‘s Howe Gelb, whose presence on the ‘The Wheel‘ immediately thrills with its typically unusual arrangement. The following songs ‘Shake Baby Shake‘ and ‘Buckle Up‘ are 2 of Ray’s strongest and simplest pop moments. ‘Rubbing Out Your Name‘ is easily a better James Bond theme than most recent attempts while ‘Desoto‘ is a sad love song centered around the vintage Chrysler car.
Gorgeous harmonies appear throughout the album, much as they do throughout Ray’s work, and she demonstrates how more than capable of being her own one-woman 60s girl group. They leap out of ‘The Right Thing Did Me Wrong‘, where Ray echoes her ‘we need to break free from the curse’ lyric with a wailed ‘BREAK FREE FROM THE CURSE!’ response. They’re also all over ‘Motorbike‘, a pounding homage to the band Suicide (and featuring Suicide’s own Alan Vega), a great example of Ray’s innovative use of her voice. It’s the most recognisable feature of the album and its marriage to Ray’s love of film music is both original and fresh. A special mention must go to the album’s lush arrangements and composition – whether it is Ray’s reverb-heavy guitar or the Filmorchester Babelsberg which provide a stunning background to a number of tracks.
‘Milk For Your Motors‘ is another triumph for Gemma Ray and one that deserves the attention of anyone keen in discovering one of modern music’s most talented and visionary songwriters. Take a listen on Spotify below:
‘Milk For Your Motors‘ was released on August 25th. Read a live review of Gemma Ray backed by the Filmorchester Babelsberg last winter here. Thanks for reading!