Astra Kelly

Subtown Rituals

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Astra Kelly's greatest asset is her voice. She possesses a rich bluesy tone with a remarkable range that calls to mind Alison Moyet. Her vocal blast is especially impressive considering her rather diminutive frame, but she apparently had enough training in both classical and jazz singing to develop a power that many women twice her size would kill for. Her voice is well matched by the polished funk-rock swagger of her band, Far Rockaway, which derives its name is from a Henry Miller novel. The band alternates smoothly between snappy wah-wah guitar and noisy power chords, creating an alluring vibe that adds a groovy, hardcore instrumental backing to Kelly's Ani DiFranco-esque "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" attitude. The main problem with this debut record is the lack of assurance in its songwriting. Kelly has a somewhat lazy predilection for jamming too many words into a measure, valuing her sometimes overreaching lyrics above skillfully crafted melody. There are exceptions: "Use It" is a tight and catchy dance-rock number in the vein of Lauren Hill, and "Beautiful" opens with an acoustic-based melody that is deserving of the song's title. It seems likely, however, that a singer and band with this much talent and appeal is capable of a more consistent product.

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