When you need a sultry British soul fix, you must reach for one Gemma Ray, the modern answer to Dusty Springfield whose spooky PJ Harvey bent is built for a Tim Burton soundtrack. Active since 2006, the singer-songwriter is known for smoky vocal expanses and extravagantly sparse beds of sound, owing much to the guitar work of Link Wray and the torch singers of the pre-rock era. Ray does this all the while tapping into a modern-girl mentality that makes her easier to relate to than, say, the well-manicured suffering of her contemporaries. Her 2008 album The Leader was incredibly seductive, with Ray's interesting phrasing and vocal restraint making it a critical favorite. A 2010 covers album, It's a Shame About Gemma Ray, found the singer covering Mudhoney, Buddy Holly and Etta James within the same hour. A new disc, Island Fire, is coming in late May, and already has buzz bubbling, with lead single "Runaway" coming off like Ladytron produced by Lee Hazlewood.
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