Gemma Ray

Milk for Your Motors

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Sultry British singer/songwriter Gemma Ray relocated to Berlin to make her fifth album, a collection of noir-ish surf-doom ballads, and the kind of expansive pop-exotica fans have come to expect from this creative shape-shifting artist. From the atmospheric feedback squeals that introduce the bluesy Howe Gelb-assisted opener "The Wheel" to the strident pop orchestrations of closer "You Changed Me," 2014's Milk for Your Motors is another finely tuned release from the increasingly prolific musician who has now released three records in the past three years. There are certainly touchstones to Ray's style: her heavily reverbed, twangy Gretsch guitar tones, a moody femme fatale-meets-'60s girl group sort of mystique, and an innate openness to creative collaboration that constantly opens new doors in her evolving body of work. Her underrated guitar playing is certainly present here, especially on tracks like the soulful "Waving at Mirrors" and the torchy midnight blues of "Out in the Rain." The wonderfully fuzzy, electro-pulsing "Motorbike" is a sort of dark, latter-day send-up of the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" flecked with bits of psychedelic backwards zither and a brilliant, howling cameo from the legendary Alan Vega. The percolating "The Right Thing Did Me Wrong" mixes Latin rhythms with autoharp and chirpy organ leads while Ray stacks layers of multi-tracked R&B vocals on top. More than anything, Milk for Your Motors almost plays like a sampler of the various faces Ray has shown throughout her previous releases, from the Link Wray dirges of her first album to the quirky pop-oriented style of 2012's Island Fire. It's well-rounded enough to please existing fans and net some new ones.

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