The idea of what an album cover could and should be has undergone countless revisions since the pre rock and roll days of perfectly lit, posed photographs that had all of the heart and soul of a lifeless postage stamp. Although whether you prefer the flat Technicolor of a 1950s Ricky Nelson record, the elaborate grandeur of The Beatles’ SGT. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or the skeleton plain, stark black and white of Lou Reed’s Transformer, the one constant element that has always made a cover successful is also the one sole speck of static along that evolutionary line. It should capture the feel of the entire collection, making a photo worth not just a thousand words, but the ideal compliment to the breadth and scope of an artist’s musical vision. With that in mind, the album art for Shilpa Ray Stars As Door Girl effortlessly conveys the potent mix of motion, melancholy, rough edged glamour and punk rock spirit that pervades the new record from the New York based songwriter.
Mirroring the old movie like feel of it’s album jacket, “New York Minute Prayer” has a winsome, aching charm underneath it’s lavish sheen. Officially introducing Ray as the character ‘door girl,’ the record’s opening song drips with a startling combination of sentiment and cynicism. It’s a blend that works from the start, adding doses of bite and dark humor to a crisp, retro production. But it also gives you a strong sense of the city itself as it bleeds into every track, steadily gliding out into the atmosphere like the steam from the grates as the music leads you down the crowded streets.
Marrying that blunt honesty with the gentle doo wop of “Rockaway Blues” and the sometimes brutal energy present on songs like “EMT Police and the Fire Department” and “Shilpa Ray’s Got a Heart Full of Dirt,” the musician’s unique perspective connects each snapshot to bind every individual story and experience together. And by portraying chronic struggles with a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue, Ray doesn’t depict New York with the soft lens of a starry eyed visitor. Although what comes across so powerfully on a track like “Morning Terrors Nights Of Dread” is how even when those moments of strife can be crushing, it’s all a part of the larger manner in which the city can make you feel alive in a way that another place won’t. After all, that cruel, unforgiving nature is as much a part of the scenery as the trees in the parks and as Ray herself laments, “no one gets it easy.” Although when she sings, “I’m sticking around for the good times to come,” on the somber, stripped down “My World Shatters by the BQE,” you can plainly hear that there’s no place she’d rather be.
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Article: Caitlin Phillips