Marnie Stern made one of the most intriguing debuts this year with In Advance of the Broken Arm, a cacophonous yet strangely tuneful blast of prog experimentation that verges on indie rock. Stern's high-pitched, girlish vocals are slathered in guitar pyrotechnics ranging from crazy metal hammer-ons to Sonic Youth-ish squall to swirling, lattice-work layers of twitching melodicism. Underpinning the roar is moonlighting Hella drummer Zach Hill, who provides the right balance of structure and oceanic, rhythmic throb to hold it all together. It's a must for those buoyed by the recent high tide in noise rock, but Stern's created something more than a monument to her prodigious six-string talents. There's a sweet, fractured pop sense camouflaged within the skronk and pulsing drones. The innocence and shrill vocals suggest Shonen Knife captured in the experimental rock fortress of Laurie Anderson, undergoing a heroic assault by Robert Fripp and Eddie Van Halen. The quirky, heady lyricism of tracks like "Letters From Rimbaud" and "Plato's Fucked-Up Cave" add another appealing element to this terrific coming out.
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