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'Swimmer': Indie-Rock Goodness from Girl Friday


Music is not always a melodious business; it can be tough. A lot of good material gets passed over. Music reviewer Christian Bordal recently came across a self-published CD, "Swimmer," made by a New York trio that calls itself Girl Friday. Here's the story.


Amanda Dora, lead singer and songwriter of the band Girl Friday, grew up in Minnesota playing cello. But a few years ago, she discovered rock 'n' roll.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. AMANDA DORA (Girl Friday): When I moved to New York City, I landed an internship at Philip Glass' recording studio and ended up working there for five years. And I saw so many exciting musical projects come through the doors, and that's really what inspired me to get into rock music. It just looked like so much fun.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. DORA: (Singing) This love won't leave so easy. It's not the love that pains me so.

BORDAL: Rock is not only more fun, says Amanda, but for her, also more emotionally expressive than classical music.

Ms. DORA: It's a more powerful, more direct expression and experience of emotion, I think. It's a physical sensation, the vibrations, when you're playing at these loud volumes. And I think certainly as a player, that's a part of it. It's such a sensual experience.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. DORA: (Singing) Which way is up or down? I'm all turned around.

BORDAL: Amanda Dora's parents were both anthropologists, and as a young girl she spent two years in a small village in a hot, dry area of West Africa just south of the Sahara Desert.

Ms. DORA: Well, my father was working on a book about child-raising practices and he was comparing, between two different tribes, how people formed their sense of identity.

BORDAL: Dora says she wonders about issues of identity all the time and definitely inherited a little of her parents' anthropological perspective. As an example, she cites the song "Leave No Worry Here," which she co-wrote with Girl Friday's bass player, Byron Isaacs.

(Soundbite of "Leave No Worry Here")

Ms. DORA: It's really about, you know, what are we doing here and why are we in such a hurry in this culture?

(Soundbite of "Leave No Worry Here")

Ms. DORA: We, we are dust. Leave no worry here.

BORDAL: Dora names PJ Harvey as one of her inspirations, but in truth, her voice and songwriting instincts are much sweeter than that, more folky and ethereal, sometimes verging on the precious. She's a relatively new songwriter, and every now and again that shows. But on the plus side, her classical background provides her with a sophisticated musical palate. Her lyrics come from a mature and thoughtful place, and her melodies almost always have something interesting to offer. The standout track on "Swimmer" is the opener, "Give Over."

(Soundbite of "Give Over")

Ms. DORA: I've had this poem kicking around. Something about it had really struck me. It was a 17th-century Quaker poem by Isaac Pennington. It starts, `Give over thine own willing.'

(Soundbite of "Give Over")

Ms. DORA: (Singing) Give over your own willing.

What he's saying is to surrender that sense of control, that sense of power that we're all so hungry for, and to just let that go and to give yourself over to the flow of life.

(Soundbite of "Give Over")

Ms. DORA: (Singing) To know or to be anything. Sink deep down to that sea. Sound so sure in your heart.

BORDAL: In Los Angeles, this is Christian Bordal for NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Give Over")

CHADWICK: And the CD is "Swimmer" from Girl Friday.

(Soundbite of "Give Over")

Ms. DORA: (Singing) Give over your own doing. Give over your own...

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. More to come on DAY TO DAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christian Bordal