Shilpa Ray makes music like a dog biting an electric fence. The New Yorker's latest album, Teenage and Torture, features her backing band the Happy Hookers playing a kind of blues that's splayed out, wrenching, and driven, a result more of compulsion than composing. As for Ray herself, like a more languid version of doomed folk singer Karen Dalton, she widens the spectrum of misery by wailing over the swells of her harmonium, a bellowed keyboard usually reserved for Indian music, her voice ringing like cracked crystal with words that are easy to understand: "Follow the night star/ Right star/ Dark star/ Dead star," she hollers on "Erotolepsy." Torture's track list betrays Ray's caustic sense of the deadpan: "Hookers," "Dames a Dime a Dozen," "Requiem in a Key I Don't Know."
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