Afraid of Me
New Jersey native Marianne Nowottny's debut LP, Afraid of Me, experiences some trouble escaping the artistic pretensions of a fantasy-driven 16-year-old, which makes sense, because when the album was recorded, that's exactly what Nowottny was. The record is little more than 70 minutes of Nowottny singing atop her Concertmate 990 keyboard. Impressively, with it's Eastern modes and rhythms, freakish cabaret, and otherworldly instrumentals, Afraid of Me is evocative and alluring, a sultry cult of a pop music carnival. Blessed with an incredibly rich, deep voice for such a young performer (PJ Harvey is the only remotely relevant contemporary pop/rock touchstone), Nowottny quavers, yelps, and dictates imaginative and poetic lyrics. Her delivery is absolutely over the top and her songs bizarre but, regardless of how silly or foreign this record may sound, pop structures do exist in the songs either as a base or an anchor. The most obvious occurrence of this is the chorus of 'Grey City,' which, despite it's swirling backdrop and strange ringing bells, follows one of the most prominent four-chord structures in popular music. A challenging listen, Afraid of Me is further proof that those who would declare the resources of pop music exhausted are dead wrong; the album is so firmly ingrained in the past, present, and future of the form that it's completely out of time. - Bryan Carroll.