Music Reviews

Hoboken, NJ’s most valuable export since Sinatra serves up an archly catchy collection of bubblegoth with lyrical barbs fit for Noel Coward and musical hooks fit for the Beatles...From techno-country (“Crush”) to Gypsy grunge (“I’m Your Girl”) to pure ear ambrosia (“Buried”), you owe yourself a listen to the indie queen of meta-pop’s latest morph. —Adam McGovern, Yahoo Internet Life

Cleary, the “life of crime” referred to in the title is something less felonious but more destructive to the psyche, and therein lies Farley’s power. Deceptively sunny, these songs are rife with emotional scars and self-deprecation, best swallowed with a spoonful of sugar; any bitter aftertaste is vanquished when the next piece of ear candy comes along. Even the goofy “Crush” (with electric guitar and “all-around loopiness” by MVP James Mastro) betrays a seriousness at the core, an obsession with the confessional that is different from the current singer/songwriter hierarchy more by what’s missing that what’s there. What is here is lovely, melodic songs with dark underpinnings, arranged in a spartan style and featuring Farley’s plaintive vocals. Therapeutic yet unpretentious, these songs are earnest, enjoyable diary entries from a writer unafraid of her own strengths as well as weaknesses.—Larry O. Dean, Amplifier Magazine

With her edgy soprano and bold arrangements, adding a spicy cabaret flavor to her haunting folk-pop, Farley creates in each song a distinct little world where joy and peril live hand in hand.--Ben Horowitz, The Star-Ledger, Newark NJ

Half a decade passed between Mary Ann Farley’s debut, Daddy’s Little Girl, and her sophomore album, My Life of Crime. In an ideal world, Farley—who is among the more intriguing female singer/songwriters on the East Coast—would have been coming out with a new album every year, or at least every other year. But if her aim was to take her time and get everything right, she accomplished her goal: My Life of Crime lives up the  high standards of its predecessor...The worst thing one can say about My Life of Crime is that it isn’t long enough; [it’s] only 37 minutes, skimpy by CD standards. But then, 37 minutes of excellence is certainly preferable to 70 minutes of mediocrity. —Alex Henderson, The All Music Guide to Rock

Downtown New York-based singer/songwriter Mary Ann Farley debuts with an album that showcases her sharp songwriting, her ear for clever arrangements, and a voice that runs the gamut from a vulnerable quaver to a full-throated wail--sometimes in the same line...Whether supported by a full band or just her guitar, Farley comes across as a vital new talent.Paul Verna, Billboard (Critics' Choice pick)

Mary Ann Farley captivated the audience. It is still amazing to see a solo acoustic performer take over a stage with just six strings and a song as Farley does.--Cal Hiam, Report from the Fort, New York, NY

Her Deko Music debut CD, Daddy's Little Girl, is replete with beautiful, bluesy moments in which Farley the lyricist creates images of life's hardships and turns them over to Farley the vocalist, who presents them as if they were her most glorious achievements--taking ownership of her pain and making damned sure everyone who hears her music feels that pain too.--Sean Glennon, Valley Advocate, Northampton MA

Daddy's Little Girl easily leads the pack in disturbing analyses of boy/girl culture... Now composing on guitar, Farley's moved away from Kate Bush riffs and discovered a bold grace that ignores airy-faeries in favor of scary monsters.—J.R. Taylor, New York Press

The CD is called Daddy's Little Girl. That's a title that threatens too much sweetness, until you hear the title song. A deep breath, then she croaks the word 'Daddy' like someone possessed of more hurt and rage than a human body can naturally hold.--Steve Espinola, AntiMatters, New York, NY

Farley is no whiny proselytizer, and she takes on obfuscators and cons of all stripes--men or women, tops or bottoms, me or you.--Ed Hewitt, Puncture Magazine

The tiny Farley plays the hell out of her acoustic guitar, and much more importantly, of her voice. She wrecks it up on stage, with growls, sneers, snarls and, strangely enough, a wallop of restraint.--Gustav Plympton II, Antimatters, New York, NY

(Review of live show at the Living Room, NYC) It's in such a setting -- dark, indistinct, dredged -- that Mary Ann Farley animates her exquisitely pained work. Fiercely independent and a perfectionist to her hard coiled core, Mary Ann  is uncompromising in a life of compromises; her songs give no ground in their gravely-precise explorations of mood and mind. Her writing is spare and hard to spot, as if carved from air. If she were a playwright she'd be a Beckett or a Pinter, illuminating grand moments with small gestures and leaving the audience to divine the details. There are stories in her music, but they are private ones; her characters show but don't tell. We meet them instead in their pondering aftermaths, musing brokenly about what has gone before and how it got them here. —Linus Gelber, Music Dish, New York, NY

Brimming with consistently powerful songs that come in the form of dramatic pop-rock, quiet but edgy ballads and a few novelty tunes, [My Life of Crime] is more confident and concise than her debut, Daddy’s Little Girl. Farley brings a rock urgency to her new record without sacrificing the quirky personal observations that made her mostly acoustic debut unique, [suggesting] a more thought-provoking Belinda Carlisle or a more down-to-earth Tori Amos. With Farley proving on this record that she is the complete package as a performer and songwriter, one can’t help but wonder if the honchos at the big record companies will ever wake up and take notice.—Ben Horowitz, The Newark Sunday Star Ledger

“Strange & Wonderful” (on My Life of Crime) is perfect, and “For You To Do That” and “My Life of Crime” have that wonderful ‘60s vibe, yet sound current...like Britney meets Lulu and gets her ass kicked.—Tom Haynes, WNTI, Hackettstown, NJ

Farley is a wonderful storyteller, and whether she is backed by full-band playing lush arrangements or simple guitar strums, there’s an appeal to her albums which falls somewhere between the angst-ridden worldly singer-songwriter and the innocence of an eyelash-fluttering country gal. There’s a hint of cabaret-noire to her haunting folk-pop, which goes a long way towards separating her from her musical peers. A refreshing change from the current indie and commercial wave of skate rock from the American contintent.—Stu Olds, Deliveryman Music Ezine, Manchester, U.K.

Heavy on melody and sheen, Mary Ann Farley muses waifishly and rants about social ills over spartan piano grooves and punchy band arrangements.--The Village Voice, New York, NY

With the glut of female (sub)urban singer/songwriters, it is increasingly difficult to hear something fresh and engaging. With My Life of Crime, Mary Ann Farley takes a serious swing at rising above the scrum. Her melodies are engaging and her lyrics, while honest, avoid reaching the tell-it-all mentality that seems to accompany too many discs of this type, that leave the listener with more discomfort than insight.—Phil Bailey, ink19.com

On her second album, critically-acclaimed Mary Ann Farley tears through 12 tracks with a sly but rockin’ elegance. Farley is one of the rare musicians that can tackle relationships in a way that is both incisive and utterly hummable. In fact, the opener “About You” is the perfect invocation into Farley’s world of unsteady romance. The delivery here, with its fractured sweetness, suggests if you don’t follow her, she’ll be fine, but if you do, you’ll both be better than before...Whether it’s the pounding organ of the predatory rockabilly rave-up “Crush”—which may be one of the best pop songs of the year—or the moving “Buried,” which brings to mind Aimee Mann, My Life of Crime should get Farley booked as one of the most important performers around.—Alex Green, Comfusion Magazine

First, you notice the voice: fluttery and supple. Second, you notice the songs: canny and smart. Third, you notice how consistently strong and musical this set is from stem (“About You,” as perfect a song about romantic indecision as has been written) to stern (“My Life of Crime,” a guarded confession of guilt). Without remorse or reserve, Farley paints herself nakedly on canvasses that are, like one of her song titles, “Strange & Wonderful.”—Parke Puterbaugh, Sound & Vision

After her debut disc, Daddy’s Little Girl, Mary Ann Farley was a critical success among peers and her influences...and it seemed she could do little wrong. But the follow-up to her debut, My Life of Crime, was a long time coming—five years, in fact, enough time for many careers to come and go and be revived again. But her style of witty lyrics blended with Beatles pop capabilities isn’t far from the surface on her latest disc. And it’s something the Hoboken, NJ native should take pride in… “Buried” is an early high point, with Farley’s extremely fragile vocals sounding like a youthful Marianne Faithful...And the ‘60s pop nugget “For You to Do That” sounds like it’s something Dusty Springfield missed along the way...One of the bright spots on the record is Farley’s constant ability to create a simple yet infectious hook time after time. A very solid album. Hopefully it’s follow-up will be prior to 2007.—Jason MacNeil, PopMatters.com

With a touch of country, plenty of pop, and a folk-inspired style, Mary Ann Farley turns ordinary singer-songwriter folk-pop into a living, breathing entity, songs that mean as much to the listener as they do to the person singing them. And as much as the songs are about her lyrics and her voice, the melodies shine, too.—Alex Steininger, In Music We Trust

I saw Mary Ann Farley play (completely by chance) in Manhattan and she was awesome. I liked just about EVERY song, and that is rare for me...She has mature lyrics, quirky yet driving rock/pop rhythms, and a slightly quavering voice that commands attention a la Sam Phillips. I also have her  CD—both are highly recommended.—Charlie Cheney, IndieBandManager.com

Hoboken singer/songwriter Mary Ann Farley’s power of reserve is evident on her new CD, My Life of Crime. Where others would scream and clamor to get a point across (and sell records), Farley uses nuance, intelligence and 12 very agreeable and enjoyable pop songs to state her case. Thank goodness for that. Her songs are clean, pure, multi-layered takes on affairs of the heart and her, er, life of crime. —Chris Jordan, Home News Tribune, New Brunswick, NJ

My Life of Crime...an impressive and engaging follow-up to the critically acclaimed Daddy’s Little Girl, featuring a clever cover of the Beatles “Run For Your Life.”—John James, Positively Yeah Yeah Yeah, Cincinnati, OH

Mary Ann Farley is someone more people should know about by now. The Hoboken, NJ-based pop singer has a wonderfully warm voice, an intelligence in her writing that eludes most popular acts, and a strong collection of songs on her new independent disc, My Life of Crime...Her tunes are firmly entrenched in the pop-rock tradition and vaguely recall many female chart toppers of yore but aren’t derivative of any of them.—Ray Hogan, The Stamford Advocate, Stamford, CT

She has a charming and heavenly voice, and a command of the acoustic guitar to mesmerize audiences everywhere. [She has] beautiful songs of love, loss and everything else.—Eugene Mulero, The Hudson Current, Hoboken, NJ

De songs blijven vrij snel hangen en sommige ervan hebben potentiële hitkracht, zoals het zweverige en van oosterse invloeden behepte Might (leuk ‘Nananana-refreintje’ overigens) en de afsluitende titeltrack. Naast het leuke hoesontwerp, waarvoor Farley letterlijk zelf tekent (ze was immers verzot op de cartoons van Bugs Bunny), willen we u één song zeker niet onthouden; de prachtige coverversie van de Beatles song Run For Your Life, ingetogen gebracht en begeleid door piano en viool (Tori Amos zou het niet beter hebben gekund!). Wie eens iets anders wil uitproberen dan al die rootsy stuff van de laatste tijd en niet vies is van poppy toestanden, is bij deze Mary Ann Farley zeker aan het goede adres.—Bruno Depeyper, Rootstown Music Free-zine, Belgium

New Jersey's own Ani DiFranco presents a bittersweet blast at the shackles of love, work and image... This Hoboken songstress' bittersweet look at the absurdities of life makes her independent debut disc, Daddy's Little Girl, as good as anything heard at Lilith Fair.—Robert Makin, Best Female Artist, The Courier News, Bridgewater, NJ

Waifish girl-rock has become an overcrowded field [but] Mary Ann Farley stands apart from this parade of adenoids...Indeed, her songs are about waifishness, and they explore the territory with a dragging nonchalance that is both engaging and chilling. The arrangements alternate between lush and spare in a method reminiscent of Siouxie and the Banshees, with repeated allusions to feminine malevolence...A rich and satisfying record start to finish.  Mark Keating, Sound Views, New York, NY

Mary Ann Farley won't sit still. This evening found her reincarnated from the synthed-up Motown Gothic of her '93 debut EP into a tight, cathartic folk. Solo or accompanied by lean percussion and lonely violin, Farley's essentialist guitar anchors subtly stunning vocal improv. An impressive array of swoops, trills, ragged edges and melodic vocalese spikes her rich timbre with the risk that makes virtuosity worth having. What links her past musical life and this one is an intrepid embrace of the unexpected. She won't stand still, but she does stand her ground. --Adam McGovern, Smug Magazine, review of show at Meow Mix (NYC)

One of the more promising folk-rockers to make her presence felt in New York venues in the '90s is spunky Hoboken, NJ resident Mary Ann Farley, whose debut album, Daddy's Little Girl, is a departure from the two extremes one expects from '90s folk (angry socio-political commentary and waifish introspection). Like most singer/songwriters, however, Farley is an expert storyteller--and an often clever one at that...[she] obviously isn't afraid to keep listeners guessing on a disc that is exciting both musically and lyrically.--Alex Henderson, The All Music Guide to Rock

Farley comes across as maybe a bit irritated, but in a good way. Her album consists of mature, melodic musings on relationships, family roles and a witty take on haircuts.--Chris Jordan, Home News & Tribune, New Brunswick NJ

[Farley's] songs are modern, sleek and sassy. She purrs, she sighs, she sings the blues...[and her] piquant wit is as sharp as ever.--Jim Testa, Jersey Journal, Jersey City NJ

Mary Ann used to do moody synth stuff, then she started writing on the guitar. Wow. This CD goes everywhere on the musical map, but it never loses the listener. She's got a folky's obsession with her own thoughts, but the presence of mind to never get maudlin about it. Really great.--Rich Grula, The Orlando Reporter, Orlando, FL

Alone onstage, [Farley's] confidence and personality emerge as the eye of the storm...The lyrics drip from her tongue like brewing coffee into the thirsty ears of the coffeehouse audience...As her rollercoaster performance of humor and waiting, sadness and hope draws to a close, she remains with the audience by leaving a bit of herself in the memories of each soul.--Jon Horowitz, The Daily Targum (Rutgers University), New Brunswick, NJ

Often armed with just an acoustic guitar, Farley conjures up images and emotions with the lyrical and musical dexterity of a magician...Her songs contain poignant, indirect commentary on society and many of its ills...--Michael Murphy, Network Audio Bits

Her voice is passionate and compelling, bringing real lessons of life alive in her lyrics.--Lee Ann Kaskel, The Weekender, Scranton PA

Young lovers, husbands and wives, daughters and fathers, are all explored, and Farley's little girl voice belies the intensity herein. The wonderful "My Bare Hands" is the perfect example, as Farley revels in the double-edged sword...Her arrangements can be eerie as well. The record's opener, "Blindsided," is carried by her own light touch on the keyboard, and has the same feel as Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia." ....Not many folk artists have this type of imagination. In short, she sounds enormously confident in herself and her material. She should be.--Thomas Flannery, The Critics' Corner

Farley adds a cabaret-flavored, theatrical flair to her edgy, distinctive folk-pop songs, suggesting a rhythmic cross between Edith Piaf and Tori Amos. Her sparkling debut album, Daddy's Little Girl, uses keyboards, violin, drums and even horns to spice up the rich material, raising the question of whether Farley would be able to convey the songs effectively with just an acoustic guitar. But Farley, who says she wrote the songs with just a guitar, had no trouble at all. She confidently belted out her throaty, girlish yet worldly soprano with some dancing, music hall-style licks from her guitar. Blindsided, the powerfully haunting song that kicks off the album with ominous, moody synthesizer chords, came across even more effectively in the live setting as a crisp, stark, dramatic, subtly angry folk ballad.--Ben Horowitz,The Star-Ledger, Newark NJ, Review of show at Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ

The lead-off track, Blindsided, is an ideal song to cast you under the spell of this up-and-coming 'anti-folk' pop artist. Boasting splendid studio co-production from Alan Douches...the entire affair is propelled by Ms. Farley's soaring vocal abilities and prowess on guitar and synth keyboards. With its Joni Mitchell meets the Bangles feisty folk/pop mixture, sophisticated music lovers will connect with Farley's lyrical zing and gifted melodic flair, which this CD more than supplies...--Robert Silverstein, Time and a Word

There is an element of pop in this album’s presentation, [falling] somewhere between the Beatles (whose “Run for Your Life” is given an affecting slow-motion makeover) and bubblegum...Music fans who look a little deeper will fall hard for Mary Ann Farley. —Ricky Flake, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi

Every once in awhile, a new and fresh voice comes along in pop music, and Mary Ann Farley is this voice...with songs that are both light-hearted and deep at the same time. If you’re looking for an album that is both fun and thought-provoking, My Life of Crime is sure to put a smile on your face.—Dennis Halsey, bestfemalemusicians.com

This [is] an extremely talented singer/songwriter from the land of Sinatra (Hoboken, NJ)...Imagine Joni Mitchell meets the Bangles meets Ani Difranco meets Siouxie and the Banshees...well, maybe you get the idea. She writes great lyrics, which are delivered by a delicious vocal style that sounds wonderful in front of a full band or a single guitar.—Raw Egg Radio