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Island Fire

Gemma Ray

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iTunes Review

The sonic bonbons scattered through Gemma Ray’s Island Fire are laced with hallucinogens and venom, lifting her fourth album beyond mere kitsch into something far more intriguing. The British singer/songwriter flashes a dizzying array of influences in these tracks, dipping into girl-group sweetness one minute, reveling in soundtrack melodrama the next. Ray wisely avoids orchestral excess in favor of a more nuanced approach built around twang-heavy guitar, roller-rink organ, and creamy string swirls. Her cooing, breathy vocals add dark nuances to the vaguely sinister scenarios within “Runaway,” “They All Wanted a Slice," and “I Can See You.” Her take on romance veers from soft and dreamy (“Fire House”) to tart and teasing (“Bring Ring Ring Yeah).” The futuristic anthems “Alight! Alive!” and “Make It Happen” have the widescreen feel of ‘60s European cinema. Ray closes the album by teaming up with Sparks' Ron and Russell Mael on the Sparks song “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?” (delivered with hard-charging intensity) and “Eaten by the Monster of Love” (transformed into a moody ballad).


Born: Basildon, Essex, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The early 2000s had their share of retro-soul and R&B acts, but British singer/songwriter Gemma Ray had a more complex m.o. than simply aping the greats. Reaching back to pre-Beatles rock for inspiration — but tossing in a jumble of influences as disparate as Tom Waits, Kate Bush, film scores, flamenco, and the sparkly indie pop of the ‘90s and 2000s — Ray sculpted a sound...
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Island Fire, Gemma Ray
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