"Bossa Nova," the second song on Shivaree's debut, I Oughtta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in This Dump (Capitol/Odeon), is a real attention getter: "Well I think I hate you / Isn't this fun," sings Ambrosia Parsley--apparently her real name--with a laconic, sexy drawl that recalls early Rickie Lee Jones and Sheryl Crow. "You're gonna shoot / And I, darling, loaded the gun." But the lyrics aren't the only thing that'll prick up your ears. The tune is three and a half minutes of giddy pop perfection, a big bass line tying together shuffling drum loops, acoustic guitar arpeggios, tweeting birds, a garagey organ riff, and train-whistle pedal steel. Admittedly that song and a few other sublime moments, like "Daring Lousy Guy" and "Goodnight Moon," pretty much carry the record, which has more than its share of shapeless piano-based ballads. Parsley's phrasing can be catchy and crisp (for example: "Bitch slap, star map, dinner at Jones," from "Pimp"), but without a firm rhythm to prop them up her slack-jawed vocals have a tendency to turn to mush. Still, the LA trio's best stuff is in a class with Sparklehorse's second album or producer Joe Henry's own recent work: the dusky pop hooks, cabaret grandeur, roots-rock textures, and hip-hop cut-and-paste combine for a sound that's timeless and yet thoroughly contemporary. And they're reportedly terrific live. Saturday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hamish Brown.