Best lead singer who doubles as an air raid siren (2008)

Shilpa Ray

You wanna get there right as a Beat-the-Devil set begins, because half the fun in seeing this volatile NYC jazz-folk-blues-punk outfit lies in watching the unfamiliar react the first time lead singer Shilpa Ray opens her mouth. Typical reaction: shock and awe. She looks tiny and jovial (especially surrounded by her menacing, dudely bandmates), but goddamn can she ever shriek, alternating jazzy, evocative moans (she's inspired Billie Holiday comparisons, and for once they don't sound totally ridiculous) with a nuclear-grade, paint-evaporating, continent-shifting howl loaded with more volume, rage, and pathos than the entire Ozzfest lineup combined. After she fiercely blasts through her song about Coney Island, you'll never look at chili dogs or Ferris wheels the same way again. That Shubaly is nonchalantly playing a harmonium (a hand-pumped organ of the bagpipean persuasion) the whole time only adds to the terrifying visual appeal. It's not always clear exactly what her surrealist lyrics mean ("Where there are dancing bears/Drinking grape-flavored Kool-Aid/Touching large-breasted women/Touching large-breasted men/Oh I'm in love with myself"), but there's no doubt she means it, and means to let you—and everyone in the next county over too—know about it.


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