I Is What I Is

Pop Song for Euthanasia

Shilpa Ray is not yet, as of this writing, a household name. There may be reasons, but none of them are good. Because no one haunts, growls or spits venom the way Shilpa does. And no one creates musical instability quite the way Shilpa does. It is a thing of absolute heart-wrecking beauty.

Shilpa is a “Bengali woman from Jersey” who draws inspiration from acts past like The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls, and The Breeders. But then with Shilpa there’s this harmonium pumping away beneath it all, conjuring spirits from the old world, casting an piercing gaze on all who listen. Once it takes hold, there is no escaping her music.

She has recorded under various names—Beat the Devil, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers—and sung backing vocals on tour with Nick Cave. In May, under the simple moniker Shilpa Ray, she released her fifth album to date, Last Year’s Savage, through Northern Spy Records. A lot’s been made of her cover-art ape mask as metaphor. But taking it on face value (so to speak), I honestly don’t know if it’s for her protection or ours.

“Pop Song for Euthanasia” is the second track on the new album. “I Is What I Is” is not on any album, but is one of most sharply written songs I’ve heard in years. She played it live at The Basement when she passed through Nashville earlier this summer, to towering effect.

Shilpa Ray may be savage at heart, but when she turns that fierce power into song, what she creates leaves us each just a little more human.

Shilpa Ray