Go ahead and call her “Stella,” but you’re gonna want to figure how to type the Greek sigma character if the new ∑tella album becomes your sudden obsession like it has for me. [Ed.– Try typing option-w.] “Watch Me Dive” showcases her characteristically lean, concise electro-pop. True, hundreds of synth-based acts work the same musical territory these days, but ∑tella stands out with her uncontrived emotional restraint and ruthless compositional efficiency. Further listening reveals her secret weapon: she’s a highly capable guitarist. At the risk of making assumptions about her Athens, Greece background, I hear the signature rhythmic lyricism of the country’s stringed instruments (the bouzuki, lute, oud, etc.) in her clean, digitally delayed guitar tone.
∑tella’s new album, Works For You, opens to the sound of crashing dishes on lead track “Come Collect.” Maybe that’s why I think of this album as an appealing collection of eurocafe-pop. These songs tell stories of ridiculously fetching Mediterranean boys and girls coming in and out of a streetside cafe, breaking up, making up, and confessing their true feelings to one another. Through the drama, ∑tella stays cool as a cucumber, capturing their vignettes while serving them demitasses of dark, tarlike coffee. Make mine a double, please!
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.