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Rupa & the April Fishes - Extraordinary Rendition

Released on Creative Commons, 1/13/07

Swimming in sensuality, the fantastic, and the romantic Extraordinary Rendition is an album that enchants from the outset. An eclectic mélange of bossa nova, jazz, and a plethora of other musical influences coalesces into a sound that that reminds you that life is full of wonderful surprises. There is a whimsy to Extraordinary Rendition that beckons the child at heart.

Rupa and her gilled friends start things off with a brief tribute to their stomping grounds with "San Francisco". The familiar wail of the noon siren is bound to resonate with Bay Area denizens. From there, Rupa and the April Fishes quickly segue into the uptempo "Poder" (translation: power), a Spanish tune giving voice to the frustrations of manufactured borders.

Spanish gives way to French in the romantic and melancholy "C’est pas d’l’amour". Rupa’s sultry and enchanting voice brings to life the pain of having a lover who teases with words and deeds, but never quite seems to deliver. Accompanied by a somber cello, "C’est pas d’l’amour" truly captures the painful, visceral essence of unrequited love.

The subject of romance and love continues in "Maintenant". Once again, Rupa’s smooth vocals seduce. Encouraging a lover to seize the moment and live in the now. How often does love come along? Hesitation and reticence is not the path to follow. This seductive tune is complemented by accordion and punctuated by trumpet.

The vast majority of the tracks that comprise Extraordinary Rendition are sung in French by Rupa. In Rupa’s words, "What happens if you communicate….in a way that people who don’t speak the language can understand what you’re saying?" Mastery of the French language is not necessary to derive some kind of meaning from most of Rupa’s song. Her voice is earnest, heartfelt, and infectious. Frequently Rupa’s vocals are married with a rhythm and tone that more often than not strikes an emotional chord.

No less compelling are the scant few tracks with English lyrics. The final track, "Wishful Thinking" reflects the fantastic, otherworldly energy Rupa and the April Fishes bring to much of the album. The track opens with the faint sounds of seagulls calling, foghorns in the distance, and lapping waves. Rupa muses on a childhood fantasy of traveling far and wide on a creaky pirate ship. This seafaring track is well crafted with a creaky accordion keeping pace.

Extraordinary Rendition truly is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a romantic, whimsical, surreal escape. It’s also a passionate and heartfelt assemblage of songs that reflect many facets of what truly makes us human. Love, loss, mourning, and happiness are all explored with an undeniable authenticity.

Rupa and the April Fishes will be performing on Friday, March 30 @ the Elbo Room at 10pm.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars