Every once in a while some new music comes this writer’s way that is so damned brilliant that it makes the task of writing about it daunting. Such is the case with New London-based singer-songwriter, Daphne Lee Martin’s sprawling and sexy new release, Moxie (Telegraph Recording Company). Martin’s done a complete 360 stylistically from her equally adventurous 2011 album (with her band, Raise the Rent), Dig & Be Dug.
With its Farfisa organ and surf guitar-attack propelling the angst-ridden track, "Sweet & Low Down," forward; Martin delivers the goods on this decidedly hybrid take on Northern soul. “Whiskey and Sin,” finds her lusty and wistful — wanting her boy “to do it” to her against a backdrop of caterwauling guitars, speakeasy trumpet and trip hop beat reminiscent of Portishead (plus, the first of many references to alcohol).
The album’s breakout track, “Belly,” is a sinewy, gorgeous jam that fell off the Lovage truck. Yes, whitey-white Martin makes us groove unrepentantly to something transgressive (pay attention to the lyrics) here. Her musical wardrobe changes are as varied as they are wildly unexpected. “House That Built Itself,” with its 80’s retro vibe runs into the shuffling, vaguely Eastern Euro, “Molotov,” (which in turn, morphs into a cosmic bluegrass jam) are beyond just “awesome.” On “Whispers,” she wrings out every last scornful syllable to an errant lover over a klezmer and old school dub beat.
Moxie is all about sex – wanting it, lamenting it, and being revolted by it (maybe?). And it’s also exquisitely produced thanks to producer, Bill Readey, who extracts some serious golden moments from the various players on the record while creating an evocative soundscape which complements MLM’s voice. To pick one track over another as truly “adventurous” is difficult, but if I had to pick one — “Cheers, Darlin’” is it. Beginning with the opening cinematic orchestral score (the clink of a bottlecap hitting the floor is a nice touch), the moody plucking piano strings, minor horn blasts and the acoustic guitar and chorus interludes, Readey teases out of Martin her horniest best.
Daphne Lee Martin plays February 16th, 9 PM, Cafe Nine, 250 State St, New Haven, CT.