The delicious intersection of tragedy and comedy in matters of heart hardly gets tastier than in the first single from L.A.’s Fascinoma. “I’m walking this road / Because you stole my car / I’m singing this song / ‘Cause you have all my CDs / You want me to believe / in your love / and, yeah, I will / when you give back my stuff,” laments singer-songwriter Alanna Lin in a voice at once world-weary and frank. It’s the stuff of which great country music is made, though Lin’s first album, which she will release digitally next month, falls more in the folk-pop realm — or, as she wryly notes, “It’s a mixture of diary entry, water and powdered milk.”
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Still, “I’m Walking This Road Because You Stole My Car (Don’t Go),” which earned a turn on Fox TV’s “American Dad” a couple weeks ago, has her self-titled album off to a good start, owing to fans of the show downloading it from Amazon. The song reads like a love ballad but was derived from the actual theft of Lin’s car. It is but one small indication that there is more to her music than meets the ear.
Lin majored in creative writing at CalArts after growing up in a musical family in Cleveland, Ohio (her sister Alice plays in the experimental post-punk ensemble Eagle & Talon [more on them at a later date]). She played classical piano and violin but scarcely touched the family guitar until later. Even now, she says, “I don’t know how I write songs, with my limited guitar skills. My musician friends tell me they come at it from a compositional side. I start with the words. I sing the words and then try to figure out what the chords are.”
Most of Fascinoma’s confessionals rely on minimalist, plucked guitar, a spare approach that suits Lin’s humorous but heart-on-sleeve storytelling well. “I Shot Neil Young” is a droll riff on the classic “Down by the River,” and “Jesus Comes Back As a Homeless Man Who Thinks He’s Jesus” is genius. But mostly Lin wrestles (to borrow a phrase) with the terms of endearment. “I have a preoccupation with love, or did when I was writing,” she says. “Unfortunately I seem to like capturing its disappointments.”
The album, produced by John Paterno and Raffaello Mazza, feels greater than the sum of its parts, and Lin herself might be too. She cites Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and the Violent Femmes as songwriting influences, but adds with a smile: “And don’t forget Whitney Houston and George Michael. They are supremely influential but completely invisible in my work.”