- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

Unlike many new musicians, Anya Marina is used to hearing herself on the radio. The California resident spent much of her 20s “on air,” working as a DJ for various radio stations in San Diego and Los Angeles. The job allowed her to foster friendships with popular artists, including Virginia native Jason Mraz. Moreover, it fueled her desire to create music of her own.

Inspired by the sounds of her day job, Miss Marina began pitching her breathy vocals against guitar chords and sharp-tongued lyrics. She then graduated to local shows, playing coffeehouses and small venues for a growing audience. “Miss Halfway,” released in early 2005, marked Miss Marina’s debut as a recording artist.

“That album was mostly acoustic,” she notes. “I wrote the songs in my bedroom, and they didn’t really change when I took them into the studio.”

While the album was intimate and subdued, it nevertheless sparked a quick increase in Miss Marina’s popularity. Her songs began appearing in popular television shows, and the album’s title track wound its way onto the soundtrack for “Grey’s Anatomy.” Months later, that star-studded soundtrack received a Grammy nomination.

“For my next record,” Miss Marina explains, “I wanted things to be more electrifying. I wanted to reflect the upbeat nature of the songs in my head.”

The first step? Bolstering her music with a fresh sense of rhythm.

“The writing process was really different for me,” she says of “Slow and Steady Seduction: Phase II,” her buoyant sophomore album. “I worked alone in my house with some drum loops, and then I worked with new people in the studio.”

By utilizing the drum loops, Miss Marina injected her songs with newfound swagger and spunk. She then took the material to Britt Daniel, co-founder of the rock band Spoon, as well as several members of the band Louis XIV.

Together, the musicians shaped a sound that was both nimble and nuanced. The coffeehouse atmospherics of “Miss Halfway” were still present, but so were elements of rock ‘n’ roll and bubbly pop. Several songs, including the standout track “Move You,” happily occupied the three-way intersection between those styles.

“Since I’m so self-critical,” says Miss Marina, “it’s rare for me to stop and say, ‘This is an amazing song.’ But I’m really proud of ‘Move You.’ I love how many different moods it has.”

Beginning with a slow guitar progression, “Move You” quickly transforms into a pop-rock nugget peppered with hand claps, harmonies and fast-paced melodies. Miss Marina recently performed the tune, along with other selections from “Slow and Steady Seduction,” during a string of concerts with Jason Mraz.

“His fans are so cute,” she says of the songwriter, whom she befriended during her DJ days. ” Ninety-eight percent of the crowd is always young girls, and the other two percent are their boyfriends.”

Chop House Records, a label founded by music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, will release Miss Marina’s new album on Jan. 20. It was through Miss Patsavas that Miss Marina found her way onto the “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack, and the songwriter made sure to maintain contact throughout the following years. Before long, an offer to join the Chop House roster was extended.

“I mailed her a Christmas gift,” Miss Marina laughs. “Some bath products, wine, lotion, or something like that. So there you go, people! Don’t forget the people that help you out, and never overlook the gesture of giving a gift. Bath products got me a record deal.”

cAnya Marina will visit the Washington area twice in January. On Thursday, she plays DC9 with fellow songwriters Greg Laswell and Jenny Owen Youngs. One week later, she returns to perform at the Rock and Roll Hotel with the Virgins. Advance tickets to both shows are $12.

U2’s new horizons

U2 recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, an elusive milestone for most contemporary bands. While artists like Madonna and Sting have weathered the music industry’s twists and turns for decades, few veteran groups can rival U2’s commercial viability. The Irish quartet’s most recent release, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” sold over 9 million copies and took home eight Grammy Awards, offering further proof that U2 can hold its own against the fresher faces of rock ‘n’ roll.

Slated for release in early March, “No Line on the Horizon” marks U2’s 12th studio effort. With the four musicians now pushing 50, the album also extends U2’s bid to stay relevant in an industry obsessed with young stars and timely trends.

U2 has stayed abreast of cultural movements in the past, embracing dance music in the ‘90s and partnering with iTunes 10 years later. The business continues to change, however, and U2 must change with it.

Albums like “The Joshua Tree,” which sold over 25 million copies worldwide, are now relics of an older industry. Also, iTunes and other digital music stores allow fans to purchase individual songs, a move that simultaneously lessens the fans’ financial burden but also subverts the album’s cohesion. In this climate, will U2 retain its crown as rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest band? Here’s to hoping.

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