Grey DeLisle: Homewrecker

Andrew Gilstrap

Grey Delisle


Label: Hummin'bird

When you hear a line like "Something old, something new / Something borrowed, something blue / I'm getting older every day / Ain't nothing new / Baby, you're still borrowed / I'm still blue", you just think to yourself, "Ah, that's what a good country song is all about." Grey DeLisle's second record (her first, The Small Time, came out in 2000) has lots of moments like that, where you just think to yourself, "that's how that song oughta sound."

If you're a member of the late-night TV shift like me, you've probably become very familiar with DeLisle's voice without even knowing it; she's done cartoon voiceover work for everything from Rugrats to The Powerpuff Girls to Samurai Jack. She has a clear, strong voice that Homewrecker producer Marvin Etzioni (former Lone Justice member, producer of folks like Counting Crows and Toad the Wet Sprocket) rightfully puts up front in the mix.

Homewrecker starts off with "Borrowed and Blue", a perfect throwback to the golden age of Nashville songbirds like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Much of the song is spoken, from the perspective of a woman on the wrong end of a love triangle. It's theatrical to the extreme, but when DeLisle sings the chorus, it all falls together. She attacks the song with complete conviction, and that's probably why it works. From there, it's a mixture of styles ranging from boogie woogie blues to Tom Waits-style waltzes.

For lack of a better label, DeLisle will probably be considered a country artist. Songs like "Borrowed and Blue" and "Beautiful Mistake" are certainly vintage Nashville, but DeLisle's just as likely to make a nod to classic R.E.M. (check out the riff that kicks off "The Hole" or the chiming chords that lead into "Beautiful Mistake"). The title track is a rockabilly romp that evokes the old Sun Records sound before breaking into some breakneck barroom piano. "Dead Cat" sounds a bit like Syd Straw until DeLisle stakes her claim by wailing the lyrics to the point where her voice breaks. I'm still not exactly sure what the funky, brooding track is about, but man, you've got to admire DeLisle's delivery.

The disc's showstopper, though, is "Showgirl (I'm Sorry)", a duet with Rhett Miller of Old '97s fame. It's a classic tale of the road, in which Miller's character falls prey to a "golden-haired chanteuse" while DeLisle offers that all she wanted was to raise a family. The song coalesces into DeLisle listing the showgirl's victories while Miller repeatedly responds, "I'm sorry, so so sorry". It's absolutely gorgeous, and quite elegant.

"Frozen in Time" and "The Hole" both exhibit a Syd Straw vibe, in which DeLisle just goes for the song's throat. There are a few times when DeLisle seems to be on the edge of being too theatrical, but she always eases off before she crosses that line. "'Twas Her Hunger" takes on a Mule Variations-era Tom Waits feel, with its gently loping pace. Sung from a man's standpoint, it tells of succumbing to a woman's guile (I'm not sure, at one point, if DeLisle's singing "it was her beauty" or "her booty that derailed me", but I guess either one works). "Ferris Wheels and Freakshows" finishes off the record in similar style, with carnival sounds providing the backdrop to DeLisle's tales of a twisted relationship. The song's either metaphorical when she sings, "it's been ferris wheels and freakshows since I met you", or she could be singing about falling in love with a carny. If there's one minor quibble about Homewrecker -- and it's a very minor one -- it's that you can't be sure what DeLisle's more surreal scenarios are about.

Other than that, though, this is an excellent record, full of artistic risk. Any number of these songs could fold in on DeLisle to the point where they sound like self-parody. Throughout the album, though, she carries herself through sprawling, ambitious arrangements, and she shows that she's up to the task. DeLisle's one of those full-throated singers with the artistic temperament to match, and it'll be really interesting to see where she goes from here.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.