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Monday, April 7, 2014

Gena Perala - Exactly Nowhere

Gena Perala – Exactly Nowhere
2013, Gena Perala

Gena Perala is a modern renaissance woman.  Raised on the carnival circuit, she developed a keen insight into the human condition, and the artful storytelling style of a life-long performer.  Perala broke into music by way of her award winning poetry.  She has published three books to date and released two albums of original music.  Her debut album, This Ain’t Pretty, won Perala rave reviews. Her follow-up, Exactly Nowhere, finds Perala taking things to the next level.

Perala opens with “Living Proof”, bringing elements of classic 1960’s girl pop.  There’s a rock-a-bye feel to this tune, and while Perala is a bit verbose, the vocals are exceedingly easy on the ear.  “Fine” is an interesting take on a relationship where her partner makes her feel good about herself while spiraling downward himself.  There’s a sort of helpless fatalism here that’s palpable, and the song is gorgeous in its sadness.  “Hip Hop Cartoons” is rife irony.  The seeming anthem of living life on one’s own terms has a distinctive slacker element that’s more about simple existence than living or learning. 

“La Fin” is a dark waltz that is sung primarily in French with English interjections.  Perala is in her element here with a compelling mix of raw animus and madness.  It’s a moment that will haunt you into listening again and again.  “Exactly Nowhere” is theatrical in approach, sung seemingly in post-relationship shock.  Perala’s composition is masterful, right down to the string accents.  The lyrical caricature is as artful as the music, and in case you didn’t know it already, Perala is showing off some serious songwriting chops here.  “Superstar Nova” finds Perala in a more straight-forward pop approach, completed with elemental synth and a dance beat.  This is too busy as a relationship song and a bit too self-focused.  “Fat World” is a catchy garage/punk number that may be stuck in your noggin for days for its musical proclivities and for Perala’s enthralling voice.

"Hoopla" finds Perala lampooning women who fulfill themselves by digging for gold and living off the success if others. The campy atmosphere of the song, which alternates between reverb soaked simplicity and alt-rock excess, is reminiscent of Meryn Cadell. "On Second Thought" is a memorable piece of musical theater that tracks the internal ups and downs of a fickle minded suitor. Her writing is brilliant, incisive and funny yet somehow utterly mortal. The transitions from navel gazing pastiche to manic hope are perfectly conceived and executed.  "My Match" focuses on a repeat hookup offender who laments not finding permanence. It's a humorous and sad caricature that will likely remind you of someone.

"Life Is Hard" is a gorgeous, string-laced monologue from a character who is her own worst enemy. This worldview is dark and full of pessimism and yet utterly familiar from someone you know. Perala's light touch makes this more accessible and believable. "Tell It To The Stars" is an upbeat dialectic on seeking external guidance from the stars. Perala is eminently likeable here as she speaks from the heart in an upbeat, country flavored arrangement that will have you tapping your toes.

"See Myself" is a gently rolling piano ballad that's deftly orchestrated to build the emotive strength of the song while keeping Perala's superb vocals front and center. There's something of a secular sermon feel to this at times, with a distinctly inward focus built of insecurity as the concomitant strength it breeds. "Every Man" starts out in Perala's signature confessional style, but struggles to escape its own weight. She recovers nicely, closing with the brief, yet hopeful "Neverland".

Gena Perala’s musical and lyrical brilliance shines through on Exactly Nowhere.  There’s a theme of disaffection based on a mistrust of human intentions that runs through the album, but Perala also has a sense of humor.  In essence, Exactly Nowhere is something of a catalog of musical defense mechanisms that lead to the album’s title.  Perala deconstructs, perhaps, her own defenses with humor and grace and a fantastic sense of musical theater.  She takes tremendous risks and even when things don’t quite work out they’re certainly interesting.  Exactly Nowhere finds Gena Perala distinctly somewhere wonderful.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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