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Grass Is Singing

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Album Review

In Europe, the English language sometimes becomes common ground for people who don't live in countries where English is the primary language. Dutch tourists who encounter Norwegian tourists in Stockholm will converse with them in English; Finnish tourists who haven't studied Italian know that a hotel clerk in Milan who doesn't speak Finnish might know some English. And even though none of the three Barcelona-based musicians who comprise Lonely Drifter Karen grew up in countries where English is the main language, English is a crucial part of their debut album, Grass Is Singing. Except for some occasional lyrics in Spanish, lead singer Tanja Frinta sings and writes in English on this 46-minute CD — and emotionally, the English language serves her well. Frinta isn't from Barcelona originally; she grew up in Austria and spent some time in Sweden, while drummer Giorgio Fausto Menossi is originally from Italy and pianist/keyboardist Marc Melia Sobrevias moved to Barcelona from Mallorca, Spain. Grass Is Singing (which was recorded in late 2006, 2007, and early 2008) is quite multicultural in its approach; the music is best described as alternative pop/rock and art rock, and Lonely Drifter Karen's long list of influences ranges from Björk to Billie Holiday to German cabaret (Kurt Weill is obviously an inspiration), French chanson, and Italian folk. There are parallels between Lonely Drifter Karen and the Dresden Dolls (a Boston-based group that has also been influenced by German cabaret), and at times, one can hear parallels between Grass Is Singing and singer/songwriter Nellie McKay (another major Weill admirer). But this trio is distinctive and quite recognizable on introspective, mildly quirky offerings such as "Professor Dragon," "Giselle," and "La Hierba Canta" (which has a bit of a Mexican ranchera influence, but not at the expense of Lonely Drifter Karen's Euro-artsy aesthetic). The performances on Grass Is Singing have a lot of character, and this is a very promising debut for the expressive Frinta and her Barcelona-based colleagues.


Formed: 2005 in Sweden

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

The aptly named pan-European outfit Lonely Drifter Karen has called places as far apart as Barcelona and Brussels home, but it has always revolved around Viennese-born singer/songwriter Tanja Frinta. Frinta began Lonely Drifter Karen in Sweden as a solo project in 2005, releasing the single Sinsweetime, but Majorcan keyboardist/arranger Marc Meliá Sobrevias and Italian drummer Giorgio Menossi joined her when she moved to Barcelona. The trio's debut, 2008's Grass Is Singing, took two years to record...
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Grass Is Singing, Lonely Drifter Karen
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