Marilyn Carino | Little Genius

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Little Genius

by Marilyn Carino

This critics' darling has been called "smoldering". Her pointed prose and unique, moving voice rises "fearless", "enchanting" and "otherworldly" over grinding organs and churning downtempo electrobeats.
Genre: Electronic: Down Tempo
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. King of the World
3:46 $0.99
2. Time Bomb
4:54 $0.99
3. No Disgrace
5:33 $0.99
4. Monster Heavy
4:32 $0.99
5. S'Cool
3:56 $0.99
6. Whisper
3:41 $0.99
7. Modern Love
4:45 $0.99
8. Special Dark
4:11 $0.99
9. I Will Have Everything
4:07 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Marilyn Carino gained notoriety as the singing and songwriting half of Brooklyn's Mudville. Her contributions to Mudville's three critically-acclaimed albums were lauded as "Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba" - her unique, moving voice hailed as "fearless", "enchanting" and "otherworldly".

Written, performed, recorded and produced by Carino alone, Little Genius is her new solo incarnation and the title of her first post-Mudville release. Little Genius fine-tunes the grit and eclecticism of Mudville, while adding a shot of dark adrenaline. Grinding organs and electro-beats come to life via Carino's soaring melodies and sumptuous vocals. Little Genius delivers rapturous songs that churn like hot lava.

" enchanting listen… a testament to the healing powers of rhythm [that] should not go undiscovered.”
- Nylon

“In the hands of the smoldering vocalist Marilyn Carino... down-tempo beats, haunted-matinée-style organ playing, and electronic flourishes coalesce into something familiar yet wholly unique.”
- John Donohue - The New Yorker

“Marilyn Carino sings about troubled longings and bleak surreal visions... her melancholy voice (surrounded by) brooding, minor-key tracks that start with electric piano and guides you brilliantly into smoky, ominous lounge territory, somewhere between Fiona Apple and Morcheeba.”
- Jon Pareles - The New York Times

"Marilyn Carino's quirky wail is plenty spirited."
- Entertainment Weekly

“[Live,] the combination of Carino's dramatic vocals – the gal has serious chops – and the band's brainy, extended improvs triggers a potent fusion of jazz and space-rock. Think Julie Driscoll fronting Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, or better yet set your inner categorizer aside and just enjoy."
- Time Out New York

"Nina Simone came back from the dead to front Morcheeba..."
- Rhapsody Rhadish

“Smoldering like the remnants of a fire, or maybe the beginnings of what will become a blistering blaze, (the twelve tracks on Iris Nova) are a musical force… a slow burn coaxed into well-fueled flames that produce considerable amounts of heat. (The) lyrics are ethereal, quirky, and questioning, complementing the evocative production with ease. The genre-blending that some musicians work so hard to achieve here seems effortless, genuine, and unique.”
(Review of Mudville's "Iris Nova") "...Carino delivers the vocal performance of a lifetime, powerful to the point of bringing you to tears. It’s a song that can rank alongside major-league acts like Radiohead, U2 or even REM for that matter."
- Straight No Chaser

"..a truly unique sound that reaches into your soul and finds a home amongst your bittersweet memories and forgotten love affairs. This music is wet, dripping from the speakers and running around you and holding you. Marilyn's haunting vocals whisper and wail like Annie Lennox at her best."
- Indiefan

She’s here to provoke. She’s here to make you think. Whatever your story, hers is more exotic, and she’s no joke. Marilyn Carino is a straight up Bensonhurst, Brooklyn Sicilian-American woman, from the mean streets of The French Connection with a corner fish shop known as a killing floor for mafia hits. Her cousin was in the CIA, her grandmother split the scene to jet-set with the queen of Spain, and her father was a real life Mad Men-esque ad exec. She’s got a passion for cemeteries and a dating history that includes a modern rock legend and an operative for the Irish Republican Army.

The reality of her life is just as fantastic as her torchy electronic rock, which feels like Annie Lennox just met PJ Harvey in Radiohead’s basement (and you’re invited, and there’s plenty of weed). She’s a sassy homo-boy in the body of a screen goddess, and she’s got the balls to match the voice.

Carino’s music career began behind the recording console rather than behind the microphone. Skipping Brooklyn on a whim after she finished school in the 90’s, she flew to Europe on a one-way ticket with $200 in her pocket and ended up staying for a year working in recording studios. Before long she realized that she was doing music vicariously through others, and decided to make it herself rather than tweak knobs for marginally talented autotune jockeys. “My background is in jazz and classic country, where artistic integrity and excellence is valued, so I work as hard as the people I think are great do. I’m on a mission to make cool music for intelligent grownups.”

Her saga began in the form of Mudville, a duo that produced three critically-acclaimed albums. As the singing and songwriting half, Marilyn inflamed and stunned, praised as “Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba." Mudville’s song “Wicked” won a 2008 Independent Music Award for Best Song, and it has continued to be a signature song as she moved on from Mudville to her new solo incarnation, and her album, Little Genius. As a jazz singer making electronic music with veins similar to Portishead and Beck, her work is sexy and thick, her voice an affecting instrument with an elegant grittiness, soaring above violent organs and chunky beats. In Little Genius, Carino does all the recording, mixing, producing and plays all the instruments herself, her personality imbued in the smoky-dark production, expressive singing and themes that dig for hope. “My music is about what I’ve learned about the world and what I’m still figuring out. I think happiness is about the freeing of the individual, and that’s the theme of my work. We’ve got to feel free to fall down and be a mess, to fuck the wrong people, to fail 99 times and keep coming back to get it right on the 100th. The solution to the hardening of the world around us is personal human revolution.”

The revolution in Carino’s music is authentic because she has lived the polarity involved in real change. A long-time practice of Nichiren Buddhism is the centering force that keeps her rooted in her independence and aware of the human potential to transcend difficulties and achieve genuine greatness. As one who has publicly demonstrated in support of American progressive causes and Irish independence (she was even jailed for her associations), and also spent time with lepers and polio victims in an oxcart village in India right after 9/11, she moves those in her path because she has experienced disparate extremes, and has been moved herself.

Move, indeed. Carino’s undeniable talent and full-throttle attitude have moved her through headline performances at the iconic Blue Note jazz club in NYC, playing and recording with Mike Mills of R.E.M. and Billy Talbot of Crazy Horse, recording her first album at Neil Young’s studio, and being hand-picked as a lyricist by legendary producers Sly and Robbie (Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones, Madonna). She has also gone beyond her records and live performances into the big bad world of television and film, with her songs “Hero of the World” and “Blown” prominently featured in the SyFy Channel series “Regenesis,” and other tracks used in the feature films "Slutty Summer," "Fanpires in Venice," and "Going Down in LaLa Land."

With the industry clearly already hot for her, Little Genius, due out in Summer 2011, will just feed the flames. Marilyn Carino is that rare artist who shocks but also grounds her listeners. Uncompromising, humanistic, and insightful, her music is about your life, just in a way you’ve yet to consider. “I keep trying to be brave, be totally myself. It’s sexy to care about art and excellence and the happiness of other people, and it’s important that my life and music encourage you to find those things in yourself.” She sincerely loves you all, but don’t get it twisted.

-Phil Putnam



to write a review

Kristi York Wooten

Huffington Post article on Marilyn Carino - Little Genius
Although New York singer Marilyn Carino says listening to her catalog of work with new-millennium indie darlings Mudville "feels like a nostalgia trip," she's proud of what she and collaborator Ben Rubin accomplished: critical praise (in 2006, critic John Pareles of The New York Times described their music as "somewhere between Fiona Apple and Morcheeba"), a loyal worldwide following (even in Finland!), and a reputation (one she feels is misguided) as prominent purveyors of the dark, atmospheric beat vibe known as trip hop.

So it won't surprise fans to discover her latest release, Little Genius - recorded solo - packs a brooding one-two punch in tracks like "Time Bomb" and "Monster Heavy" with multi-genre influences and even shades of Carino's muse, Nina Simone. (She says the late chanteuse, whose song "Sinnerman" she discovered while watching David Lynch's "Inland Empire," "drags something very powerful out of me.")

But what folks don't know is how this Brooklynite and queen of downtown club-scene cool unearthed her new batch of torchy electronic soul: she wrote the songs during a three-month stopover on an organic farm called Serenbe in Georgia.

Although Carino spent time in this Southern nouveau Utopia to be with her (famous) artist fiance, she says the stint taught her a lot about independence.

"I was always in the shadow of powerful men in my life," the singer explains over sushi during a recent return visit to Atlanta. "I was alone in this house in the woods while my boyfriend was painting, so I learned Pro Tools and recorded every note of Little Genius myself."

Carino also did all the photography and graphic work for the album, as well as the filming, lighting, production and editing for her solo music videos.

The "Monster Heavy" video below features claymation by Latvian artist Elina Spura. Beware: video not for the faint of art.

As for the album's nine songs, Carino says each has a theme of independence and a liberation from past repression or regression.

"'No Disgrace' is about a childhood friend who ended up a heroin addict, HIV positive and in Bellevue. He called me for help, and I tried to encourage him. I kept thinking, 'If only he could not feel shamed and just be able to enjoy life from this moment on.'"

Carino, a Buddhist for nearly two decades, says her spiritual practice guides her desire to "distill music to its essentials." Her mantra of "simple sophistication" makes for often trance-like rhythms beneath a contralto that exudes sexiness as it dances between buttery low notes, clear chest power, and guttural wails - each sung with the precision and care of a traditional jazz diva. But tunes such as "I Will Have Everything" and "Special Dark" are anything but jazzy. Move over, Florence! Your Machine has some seriously ethereal competition.

Carino has written, recorded and performed with members of R.E.M, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and legendary producers Sly and Robbie. Little Genius is a fitting title for this collection - and its one-woman creator.


such a groovy mood
Marilyn's voice is so haunting and beautiful, but not airy and light - she really sounds like a jazz singer doing soul music. I absolutely love "Time Bomb" and "Monster Heavy", just great music, it fills you up

Trippin The Rift

Atmospheric and Intimate
Don't you hate it when a certain band that you like doesn't do anything for a while, and then, when you're about to give up on them altogether, their (usually female) vocalist comes out with a solo album, and you're like, OK, I'll take that! - only to be bitterly disappointed by this mellow uninspired poppy singer-songwriter dung fest. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but for every Róisín Murphy there are dozens of [insert any other name of a trip-hop vocalist gone solo]. Now you understand the position I was in approaching the new record Little Genius by Marilyn Carino, whom some of you may know as the vocalist for Mudville. I don't know what exactly the reasoning was behind making a solo record (I'm planning on asking that question in the upcoming Q&A with Marilyn, which I'm really looking forward to). If some of it was to get her name more visible, not shadowed by the title of the group, then I must say - even though Little Genius is full of shadows, none of them hide the talent of Marilyn Carino. This, my friends, is how you do a solo album. You don't just do something different for the sake of doing something different. You do what you do best for the sake of making it sound even better. Despite its chilling downtempo base, Little Genius is anything but mellow. There's so much passion in Marilyn's singing, that it becomes overwhelming in some parts. But the album is also so well structured that instead of hitting your senses randomly and leaving you crushed and confused, it captures you whole and washes you away, providing a complete experience, painting a picture abstract enough to be mysterious yet totally relatable. This image will of course be different for every listener, but I couldn't help picturing the ocean. Not just your generic ambient ocean as in "lots of water". A very particular ocean, ever-changing and alive, going through various stages of demonstrating its power to us mortals. "Time Bomb" - the storm gathers, you can feel it in this pulsating beat and eerily calm vocals (which multiply, echoing and overlapping, just like dark clouds scattered across the sky). And then it starts. "King Of The World" makes its theatrical grand entrance. It's huge. It doesn't crush you - there aren't any elaborate orchestrations or layering of crafty samples. It just makes you feel small by its sophistication. It's perfect. "Monster Heavy" - devastation. There's no escape, this song captures whatever is left of you, the drums are ruthless and echoing vocals (Marilyn uses this element quite tastefully) drag you into the whirlwind of sound. But you already can hear the upcoming calmness in the keyboard parts. And "No Disgrace" brings it, with the beat carrying over some of the nervousness of the storm but the vocals are sunny and instrumentations are soothing. And it continues on, from the wavy cool boat ride of "S'cool" to the dangerous deep waters of "Whisper". From the trip-hop beat of "Special Dark" counterbalanced by psychedelic keyboards and jazzy vocals to the ambient anthem of "Modern Love". And the smooth sailing of "I Will Have Everything" takes us to the new and wonderful beginnings.
Even though I personally would like to hear more instruments accompanying Marilyn Carino's wonderful voice and sometimes the album's intentional borderlessness was throwing me off, Little Genius is an excellent record, brave and powerful, atmospheric and intimate.