Anya Marina and Friends - Rockwood Music Hall - 12/1/12

Categories: Live

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Anya Marina joined by comedian Amy Schumer and Schumer's sister, Kim.
By Alan Scherstuhl

Better Than: A rock show without comedians.

It's rare that a singer/songwriter/performer possessed of a huge mess of facets has that one killer song that unites the host of them. But sprightly Anya Marina, whose pop you may remember from such gotta-break-through cross-promotional platforms as Supernatural, Grey's Anatomy, and Twilight: Not the One With the Crazy Birth Scene, is savvy and talented enough to have crafted "Move On," the blazing kick-off track from 2009's Slow & Steady Seduction Part II. It's a genre-pretzeling showcase of much of what makes her hard to resist, a greatest hits playlist crammed into a three-act three minutes:

Opening her short set at Rockwood Music Hall Saturday night, "Move You" still dazzles. The first minute of it finds Marina in distinguished coffee-shop mope mode, expressing breathy uncertainties about how some asshole's been treating her. But the music is pensive/sensual rather than pensive/miserable: A swirl of descending acoustic guitar chords indebted in equal parts to Antonio Carlos Jobim and White Album-era John Lennon. Like much of her three full-length records, it's perfect for anyone who's ever wanted to crawl up inside "Cry Baby Cry" and just die.

Anya Marina performs again December 19 at Brooklyn's Union Hall.

But one minute in comes the kick and the snare. Over a powerful, rudimentary loop-like beat, the mope is transformed into a hectoring dynamo, telling that asshole what she's going to do to him -- and remixing pensive tropicalia into something that would kill at Zumba class. By minute three, the guitars have dropped out, the beat is unleashed, and Marina's in full chant-along emcee mode, until at last, in the final fifty seconds, all the melodic seeds planted earlier flower at once, twining over, under, and through each other, that descending chord swirl now somehow a celebration. (If you hear a suggestion of Jobim's "Aguas de Marco" -- well, Marina covers that elsewhere on the record.)

Much of the rest of her set -- and her strong recent album, Felony Flats -- develops the individual modes through which "Move You" gushes. The tender "Hot Button" works gorgeous, moody "Dear Prudence" changes for another tale of being made to feel small by some prick; this one, though, never erupts, instead inviting you to sink in and feel. (Live, John-Flor Sisante's warm, inventive keyboard work was something to savor.)

The harder-edged "Flinty," throughout which Marina and her guitar fruitfully snarl, is another small suite, its punk tinged with Jobim and Abbey Road, especially in its multiple climaxes. Her cover of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" is all scrappy urgency and -- as she insists in one of her charming, roundabout intros -- is absolutely not a joke. Stripped of its persuasive big beat, T.I.'s offer of transactional sex "so wet, so tight" here seems desperate, a go-nowhere fantasy not far removed from Marina's promise to "Move you around" -- a smart recontexualization that still soars as performance.

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