Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pitstop: R. L. Kelly

One of the most striking things to me about Los Angeles singer/songwriter R. L. Kelly aka Rachel Levy was that I met her before her Orchid Tapes showcase set, she was all smiles, laughs, and excited coolness and then her set started and her songs we're beautifully depressing, brilliantly sad. With song titles like "Life's A Bummer" and "Woke Up Feeling Sad", it seemed like I had entered a strange Twilight Zone where the happiest person in the room could somehow also be the saddest.

It was a weird dichotomy I didn't really get until she stated "I've got to get the sad out" rather matter of factly over instant coffee the next morning. It made a strange sort of sense that her short and yet moving stripped down songs could enable the sort of catharsis necessary for her to be the life of the party. I mean, it's certainly better than being a sad sack all day and all night.

Apart from her live set and amid the punchy gnarl of electric guitars in "You're Not the Only Monster From Hell" and "Woke Up Feeling Sad" on her Life's A Bummer tape, it might be easy to miss all those high-flying emotions but they're there and perhaps more effective when they suddenly pop out to you.

R.L. Kelly presents sadness with a sort of cool acceptance. Instead of worrying why you feel that way or caring about how that makes you seem to others, it's presented with a sort of care-free air. "Wish I could give a fuck but I'm too broken" Levy sings on "Life's A Bummer". It's completely lacking in melodrama, stated almost like pure observation. The songs aren't self-indulgent whining and that's a real feat when you're talking about how much life sucks.

You can listen to/download the rest of R.L. Kelly's stunningly melancholic Life's A Bummer at Bandcamp.

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