June 09, 2005

Picastro "Metal Cares"

Picastro's Liz Hysen is into dark sounds. Her debut album, Red Your Blues, was a raw, lo-fi recording that was hautningly beautiful, with Hysen's voice shining through a murky, sparse accompaniment. Her second album, Metal Cares finds her focusing even further on atmospheres rather than conventional songwriting. It's a mood record for bleak times, depressing days and sad thoughts, and it's not an upbeat listen in any sense of the word. Its grey, austere artwork accentuates the music within, instantly creating an aural rainy day whenever it's played. It's an ugly, dark record that might not spend a lot of time on your stereo, because its bleakness is simply overwhelming.

Comparisons might be made to Cat Power, but Picastro makes Chan Marshall look like Julie Andrews. Hysen has a deep, throaty singing voice, and it fits quite beautifully with Picastro's lush, moody arrangements. From the throaty, out-of-sync (and terribly distorted) vocals and piano combination on "Common Cold" to the naked, acoustic guitar folk of "Drama Man" and "Blonde Fires," Metal Cares is a startling record that's disturbing, due in part to her downright unintelligable singing. Vocals and instruments blend together; sometimes, Hysen's lyrics aren't very coherent, and when they are, they're just...disturbing.

With that in mind, it's also not unfair to say that it's this ugliness that makes Metal Cares oddly appealing. Whether it's the flighty, haunting violins and ethereal singing of "Raddy Daddy" or the utterly bizarre "Ah Nyeh Nyeh," where Hysen vocally intones sounds (though it's said that she's singing Russian lyrics) accompanied by a piano and violin, there's an appeal to Metal Cares that causes you to hit repeat, even after swearing that you just hated what you've heard. Is it a curiosity about having just heard something that's utterly bizarre? Is it that the music's ugly/beautiful? It's hard to say, because it seems both reasons are valid.

Metal Cares isn't an easy listen, nor is it something that you're likely to return to, but it's a record you won't soon forget, because it...is...WEIRD.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.picastro.net
Label Website: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com

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