Over the last week I have become obsessed with Marnie Stern, a guitarist from New York City. Well, “guitarist” doesn’t really do it. She’s some kind of superhuman guitarist with lightning fast fingers and skills that surpass pretty much every one else.
But why do I love her debut album, In Advance Of The Broken Arm, so? Listening to other supremely technical guitarists, like Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, makes me want to tear their instruments away from their lifeless imaginations.
That’s just it, though, Marnie Stern is not like those guys. Her music bridges the gap between Hella and Deerhoof, taking impossible finger movements and illogical rhythms and placing them into three minute pop songs. There’s something punkish and chaotic about the whole affair, and you get the impression that a lot of Stern’s influences can’t actually play that well at all.
Kill Rock Stars broke their normal signing policy by handing Marnie a contract after just hearing a demo. She then had a further stroke of luck when Hella drummer Zach Hill agreed to produce and drum on her album.
Written in seclusion in her bedroom over a period of two years, the songs on In Advance Of The Broken Arm largely feature only Stern’s voice and guitar, with Hill’s frenetic drumming behind. For the most part that’s all there’s space for, though further embellishments, like the stabby synths on Every Single Line Means Something, or the plosive brass on Absorb Those Numbers, do make it into the mix.
The final ingredient is the lyrics, which are launched from Stern’s mouth in a style that manages to be both powerful and cutesy. The words themselves are always understated but deal with grand topics and ideas. They twist and cavort around your head, the occasional line latching onto your thoughts like sun spots on your retina.
The result is one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard for a while. I’ve been listening to it several times a day since I got it and I wake up with the songs already playing in my head.
Every Single Line Means Something video: