Sometimes a little deviation is good. Accustomed to the polished, packaged and produced, it’s always refreshing to be exposed to an artist who blatantly disregards the pop star mold.
Daria Dzurik is a pocket of fresh air in an atmosphere of homogeneity. The singer, songwriter, keyboard player and steel pannist challenges the mainstream notion of popular music with her debut album, “Calliope,” independently released in August.
Joined by her band, The Hip Drops, who are Graham Robinson on strings, Erik Golson on percussion and Andrew Witkins on trumpet, Dzurik’s “Calliope” is in the field of the most distinctive female singer-songwriter releases of the year.
A classically trained pianist and a graduate of Florida State University’s College of Music, Dzurik comes from a formal musical background. That, combined with a diversity of influences ranging from indie-pop, calypso, soul and retro, she developed a completely individual style that sets her apart from her contemporaries.
After graduating from college, Dzurik settled in New Orleans and began work on “Calliope.” The album is appropriately named after a street in New Orleans that draws its name from the Greek music of epic poetry. The move to the Big Easy saw Dzurik exploring hip-hop and the rhythm and funk pervasive in the area, sounds she incorporated into her album.
“Every Morning,” which opens “Calliope,” probes Dzurik’s recent additions to her musical palate. Her cherubic voice, layered over hip-hop beats and conjoined with raps from artist JusKwam, describes the hectic early hours in a metropolis. “Outside I hear a song, of engines, screams and shouts, are what this place is about,” she sings. She creatively translates the inquisitiveness brought on by the sights and sounds of her new landscape into her music.
Dzurik transitions into more familiar territory in “Somebody,” a peppy ska-style song that explores a woman’s search for ideal man, preferably one with “a pretty ring and a flashy car.” Her unadorned voice, with unusual emphasis on particular sections of verses, hearkens back to Gwen Stefani’s early days in No Doubt.
Dzurik, like Stefani, is a desirable oddity. She’s an imperfect, yet honest voice in a field of female artists who have been known to strain their vocal chords to the point of collapse. Dzurik is laidback and natural, due in part to having no need to make up for any lack of quality in her music.
The most accessible song of the album, one that could be presented next to the pop giants on radio, is the break-up song, “Reminds Me Much of You.” The lyrical content of “Calliope” is not amazingly compelling, but as displayed in this song, Dzurik can be quite witty with her words. “This move came a little too easy – I put your things up on eBay,” is her disclosure about the remnants of her relationship.
Dzurik’s musicianship on “Calliope” is superlative. “I’m Going Home” may be the best example of her combined talents on the piano and steel pan. Her playing at the forefront, along with several layers of vocals in the background, plays games with the ears and makes for an animated departure of “Calliope.”
Dzurik describes her music as being “quirky-pop.” Indeed, her version of pop music is much more unconventional than that of many young artists. From her voice and instruments to her musical arrangements and collection of influences, she’s anything but ordinary. Daria Dzurik may be too outlandish for some people, but honestly, those are probably the type of folks who aren’t willing to seek out anything that challenges the mainstream notion of good music.
To listen to “Calliope,” visit http://www.daria.bandcamp.com. For more information on Daria Dzurik, visit her website, http://www.dariaandthehipdrops.com.