Anya Marina, little-girlish, standing waiflike and rib-thin on Jimmy Kimmel’s electric-blue stage is somewhere in between her alter ego Miss Halfway and her metamorphosis into a full-blooded rocker chick. The song she is performing — which eventually throws down with electric guitar and drums — starts off slow in sugary acoustic mode, the signature sound of Miss Halfway. This was in February, well after she’d tapped the leader of Spoon, among others, to help rev up her sound. Following the release of Slow and Steady Seduction: Phase II in January, Marina told Spin magazine that she wanted to “light the crowd’s asses on fire” with a new direction that she hoped would be the antidote to her folksier musical past.
I’m not entirely sorry to see the Miss Halfway phase of Anya Marina’s career get put into retirement. Nothing against the singer-songwriter thing, but it was a surprising choice coming from an inveterate hard-core indie-rock DJ (she was my favorite member of the staff at radio station 94.9 FM). I never fully bought into the folkster in Anya, but the local folk scene is a sensible and nurturing place to grow a career; bigger names like Jewel or Jason Mraz can attest to that. That’s when Miss Halfway came to be, during the years of performing on the local coffeehouse circuit.
Marina said the Halfway thing was her own psyche, something like a little internal trash-talking voice. “You oughta hear the things I’ve been thinking/ You oughta swim in a heart that is sinking/ You try to break me with all the things you say: ‘Miss Almost, Miss Maybe, Miss Halfway.’” Marina’s new butt-lighting phase has its fragile moments, and her voice has not gotten any less childlike, but the songs come with attitude and a beat that smolders. The new rocker shoes are a fit.
ANYA MARINA: The Casbah, Friday, April 3, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10; $12 day of show.