As the guitar plays airily in the track "Dodge," soloist Swati sings, “I believe in karma, I believe in brutal honesty, why do so many of you break my heart? Maybe I’m crazy …” and these words characterize not only the general mood of her debut album, but also her individuality. New York born with Indian roots, the 32-year-old enthralls the listener with angst-ridden lyrics that expose her feelings of despondency and loneliness like those evoked in "2 O’clock in the A.M." and "Stay." But there’s also an aggression about her songs that’s expressed through vocals that are both gentle and rough, carrying with them curses amidst an acoustic-metal sound that blows it completely out of any confining genre.
This guitar-driven music has a raw, ethereal and unorthodox quality about it. "Big Bang" and "MF" stick out sorely with unpredictable yet awesome funk elements. You can hear similar electro-acoustic picking in the opening of "Money" where Swati sings raspy-voiced in tune with brutal riffs. Listeners will find that Swati and her guitar are one entity. Her vocals would feel naked without the soul of her instrument, which she strikes with great passion and fury that makes her music both empowering and cathartic. Irritated in "MF," she sings, “no motherfucker don’t bring me down again, no motherfucker no motherfucker don’t” with matching repetitive picks. But watch out, for she claims, “I’m a motherfucker too.”
Coming from a similar cultural background, I imagine my Indian-born parents shaking their heads in disapproval at this cursing language, whose meaning they would take as literal. As a result of socio-cultural differences, they don’t quite understand that exploiting curse words can be emotionally powerful, playful and creative.
Exuding a less than hopeful and devil-may-care attitude reminiscent of Alanis Morissette, Swati’s intelligent guitar playing and her confessional and dark lyrics are nevertheless real, relatable and liberating. If you’re tired of the plasticity of mainstream music that doesn’t express your melancholic moods, then I strongly recommend you nourish your soul with the paradoxical mix of melodious folk rock and intense electronic riffs that is Small Gods.