The singer-pianist/wunderkind/animal-rights activist/Broadway actor/unabashed Doris Day fan Nellie McKay is one of this country's finest songwriters, with a talent for marrying the airiest and most winsome pop melodies with intelligently subversive lyrics, all of it arranged in sophisticated, jazzy arrangements. In the past, she's protested our patriarchal society (“Mother of Pearl”) and Columbia Universit's brutal animal experiments (“Columbia Is Bleeding”), employing a devastatingly cutting wittiness to eviscerate evildoers under the guise of inescapably frothy pop hooks and a charmingly innocent sly smile. Her fifth and latest album, Home Sweet Mobile Home (Verve Records), is a typically astonishing masterpiece, ranging from the jaunty blues exorcism “Dispossessed” and the candied, breathy funk-pop intimacy of “Beneath the Underdog” to the breezy, reggae-stoked tropicalia of “Caribbean Time” and the somberly swirling alt-pop dreaminess of “Bruise on the Sky.” With its idyllic ukulele strumming and intimately spare arrangement, “Adios” seems at first blush like a lovely farewell lullaby, until you listen closer to the lyrics: “f time runs like a river/I saw my people bathed in blood — We're marching through the madness ” Chasing the ghosts of anarchy.” Even at her most beguiling, McKay is more radical than the wildest punk rocker.
Thu., Nov. 4, 8 p.m., 2010
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