Canadian art-rock/chamber pop songwriter Lily Frost comes to Zirzamin for an early show at 7 PM on Feb 27, which promises to be a treat in that club’s intimate, sonically immaculate Blue Velvet space. She’s got a new album out, Do What You Love, which blends her eclectic purist pop intelligence with nonchalantly alluring vocals and the lyrical wit that flows through her work. Frost got her start in the oldtimey movement in the 90s – her band the Colorifics were sort of the Canadian Squirrel Nut Zuppers. After that she took a turn into retro Americana and has since branched out into darker, more ornate sounds with both jazz and classical tinges. An excellent career retrospective of sorts, with songs from most of her albums, is streaming at her Soundcloud page.
Frost has a disarming directness and bite that often contrasts with her tunes’ lively charm, in full effect on the album’s opening track, Background Radio, with its quirky surrealism, tricky tempo and upbeat ba-ba chamber-pop hooks. The second track, I’m on Fire, reaches back pensively toward oldtimey swing, sort of a cross between Jodi Shaw and Rachelle Garniez. The bouncy, mandolin-spiced title track reminds of another first-class Canadienne, Michal the Girl. Frost follows that with the understatedly snarling Grenade, a terse, noir cabaret-flavored kiss-off note.
Poetry – as in “you used to write me poetry” – sounds like ELO doing Sam Cooke over a trip-hop beat. Frost then takes a brightly pulsing turn toward early 60s Nashville pop with No Promises and its twangy Chris Isaak guitar, then follows it with the catchy but restless Long Sweet Ride and its coy Phil Spector allusions.
Opening with just a steady electric guitar strum and vocals, It Shines is the most nebulous of the tracks here and works a distant ominousness that rises even higher with the creepy gothic trip-hop of Stand. Frost reverts to jaunty mode to close the album with a cover of Pink Floyd’s St. Tropez that’s so breezy it’s funny: she absolutely nails Roger Waters’ brightly beachy sarcasm with an irrepressible grin that he only could have dreamed of. That Frost would have both the chops and the wit to do something like this speaks volumes about where she’s been, where she’s capable of going and how much fun she has doing it.