Amy Ray

Didn't It Feel Kinder

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On her third solo album, Amy Ray's moved a bit closer to a mainstream indie rock sound, but the music's lost none of its bite and her lyrics remain full of insightful details. She continues to examine the conflicts of growing up in a small town, of being out in straight society and fighting the good fight against overwhelming odds. The ten tracks have echoes of every style form the '50s to the '80s, a broad musical spectrum held together by the heart and soul Ray brings to everything she sings. "Cold Shoulder" is a new wavey dance track that talks about forbidden love, and the common struggle that ties youthful misfits together. "She may be straight tonight but last night she let me hold her," she sings ruefully. The sprightly music contrasts neatly with lyrics that convey the frustration of coming out in a small town. "Birds of a Feather" is a moving ballad wherein a young lesbian commiserates with a closeted friend, suggesting that they migrate to a place where they can be themselves. The slow tempo, distorted guitar accents, and Ray's distressed vocal give the tune an unbearable tension. "Who Sold the Gun" borrows Beach Boys harmonies and a '60s backbeat for a protest song that connects the dots between Iraq, video games, and teen streetcorner violence. Ray channels her inner Joe Strummer for the uplifting "SLC Radio." The tune salutes the underground community of Salt Lake City, a town with a surprisingly active gay and alternative community. It ends with an anthemic chant: "I want to shake these chains off, what have I got to lose?" There's a late-night R&B-meets-country feel to "Lady Luck," a quiet rumination on the struggle between love and fear that we all go through when a relationship gets difficult. Ray's vocal is full of grief and longing as she pleads for reconciliation. "She's Got to Be" is a moody, Motown flavored tune, a passionate midtempo love song perfect for slow dancing. All the tunes here are delivered in short, sharp two- and three-minute bursts, emotional poppers that'll snap your eyes open and have you pressing replay the minute the album's over.

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