Ray, Shilpa – Portrait of a Lady - New LP
This punk rock, etc. concept album was primed for a 4-sider double album, and it brings me joy that Shilpa had the wisdom to fit this into two sides. Welcome the immigrants from India (and every other country), and let their children grow up with punk rock, and maybe we will have more powerful and beautiful albums like this one. Obviously rising out of pain, this tells a classic American story, timely tales presented as a collection of songs, the set moving through many tempos and styles (and female singer influences) to fit the different parts and moods of the stories. -- winch
"Nobody grows up wanting to be an artist’s artist. Appreciated by the sub sect of the sub sect is like being the beauty queen at the leper colony." -- Shilpa Ray
"With her raging new album Portrait of a Lady, New York punk rock/art pop songwriter Shilpa Ray has created her most searing and personal album to date. Written in the wake of the #metoo movement and the weathering years of the Trump Administration, the record finds Ray processing her own experiences with abuse, layering autobiographical detail with ferocious bon mots and surrealistic rock & roll gloss. Featuring singles like the Stooges-styled “Manic Pixie Dream Cunt,” the reverb soaked dream pop of “Heteronormative Horseshit Blues,” and the hard-charging “Bootlickers of the Patriarchy,” the album draws from a stylistic palette of synths, electronic beats, and hard rock guitars, inspired by artists like Ministry, Billy Idol, Pat Benatar, and the glittery, jagged but still pop guitars of Los Angeles hair metal. The idea for Portrait of a Lady Ray stretches back Ray’s experience with photos from Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a personal expose of the photographer’s time in the No Wave scene of New York in the late ‘70s. “It shook me to my core and made me reflect on my own experiences with sexual assault and abuse,” Ray says. She couldn’t shake the idea of a concept album—a full-throated rock album about being a survivor—but found herself hesitating until 2019, when she began to approach the concept in earnest. “I kept asking, ‘How do you do this?’ But Goldin’s work—as well as the writings of music journalist and musician Jes Skolnik—inspired Ray to throw herself into the difficult work. To match her personal and fearless lyrics, which range from darkly funny to harrowing, Ray and her co-producer/collaborator Jeff Berner gather a wide batch of sounds, from unhinged garage rock to soul ballads. The songs shimmer with neon gloss, from the electronic piano and harmony-packed excoriation of privilege “Straight Man’s Dream” to the heartbreaking showstopper “Cry For the Camera,” and from the noise interlude of “No” to the leather clad strut of “Lawsuits & Suicide,” a tale of manipulation set to ‘80s hard rock-inspired new wave, drawn from Ray’s childhood memories of MTV. “In the ‘80s, everything looked like candy, but it was sharp—there’s an anger to it,” she says. That anger is present on the record, but it shares space with acceptance, gallows humor, and strength. “No survivor has a set way of dealing with what they had to survive. There’s no homogenized experience or interpretation of it,” Ray says. Portrait Of A Lady isn't a political record so much as a personal one, dedicated to “showing the good, the bad, and the ugly as well as the power one can ultimately hold being a survivor.”
All Songs Written and Arranged by Shilpa Ray (SESAC 2021)
Produced by Shilpa Ray and Jeff Berner
Engineered and Mixed by Jeff Berner @ Studio G
Assistant Engineer – Jeet Baidyaroy
Mastered by Sarah Register
Photography by Ebru Yildiz
Make Up – Stephanie Peterson
Man’s Arm – Jasno Swarez
Layout and Design – Tom Wanderer
Sincerest Gratitude - Nan Goldin and Jes Skolnik for inspiring me to write this album and giving me the power to speak my truth.
Special Thanks – Amos Poe, Claudia Summers, JR Skola, Lisa Gottheil, Alex Courides, Ric Leichtung, New York Nightlife Fund, Studio G, Peter Agoston, Mara Kuge, Gandhar Savur and Northern Spy Records for helping me get to the finish line.
This album is dedicated to the survivors. May we one day be able to reclaim ourselves.