Sirsy: Coming Into Frame

Occasionally, a female rocker comes on the scene, reminding everyone that men aren’t the only ones who can rip on the guitar or bring some hard-core vocals to a song.

A review of Coming Into Frame, the new album by Sirsy.

[By Rachel McFarland, Above photo by Celia Kelly]

In today’s rock music landscape, it is often the case that male-dominated acts get a lot of love, while female musicians primarily show off their musical chops in the pop sphere, leaving a wide gaping hole for women who rock. Occasionally, however, a female rocker comes on the scene, reminding everyone that men aren’t the only ones who can rip on the guitar or bring some hard-core vocals to a song. Which is why a band like Sirsyis so unique and refreshing.

Sirsy is unique in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that they have a huge, huge sound, yet the band is only made up of two people- Melanie Krahmer on drums, bass, flute and vocals while Rich Libutti handles guitar and bass. At their live shows, Melanie provides the lead vocals and helms the drums simultaneously, which she plays while standing up, from a 90-degree angle. Known for raucous live performances that fill the room with a sound much bigger than just two people, they’ve been challenged to replicate that on previous albums.

With the release of their most recent album, Coming Into Frame, the duo opted to work with two Grammy award winning producers to help them recreate the big, full sound from their live shows onto an album. The producers – Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade – have worked with bands like Hole, Radiohead, the Dresden Dolls, and The Pixies, enabling them to bring in the expertise to transfer Sirsy’s live energy onto this album. The result is an album which is full and layered, despite the minimal instrumentation and lack of numerous band members. Melanie’s vocals add in an additional layer, further adding to the magnitude of their sound thanks to her smoky and strong register. Listening to the combination of their rock vibe with Melanie’s soulful vocals immediately makes it obvious why they are known for their live shows.

Melanie’s vocals are sultry and seductive, but also a bit raspy and rocking with a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek tone, as if she’s singing with a wink. With a bit of a throwback sound, her versatility as a vocalist and their versatility as a band is emphasized throughout the album. On opening tracks “Cannonball” and “Lionheart” she’s highlighted as a rock songstress with a harder edge and a high energy. Then on tracks like “Picture” they showcase a more pop-heavy side, complete with a catchy chorus. Melanie’s vocals on “Killer” seem to pay homage to women-fronted bands of the 90’s like Garbage, Letters to Cleo, K’s Choice, and Melissa Ethridge; displaying a hint at nostalgia for that era’s strong female presence in music. Then, the album changes directions and they illustrate their ability to shine on slower tracks like “Gold” and “The Cost of You” by setting aside the rock vibe for a more subdued tone- but without losing the amplitude of their sound. Throughout each track variation, the steadiness in the strength of their instrumentation stands, and Melanie’s vocals sit atop everything else, adding the final ingredient.

It’s hard to imagine a sound this big coming from just two people, but throughout the album their strengths are highlighted over and over again by the sheer volume of sound produced between the two of them. Working with producers Kolderie and Slade helped bring forth their touring live sound onto each track, making for an album brimming with a rock vibe, with Melanie’s amazing vocals leading the charge. ~

Sirsy plays the Viper Room on May 24, 2013.