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Hannah Marcus

California singer-songwriter Hannah Marcus absolutely jam-packs her songs with idiosyncracy, wry humor, suffering, and gorgeous lyricism. That description refers to both the words and the music Marcus makes. Listening to her is a truly revelatory experience, because it makes you realize how much a song can do. Her relatively simple piano- and guitar-based compositions twist like flags in the wind, getting tangled up in themselves, then straightening out and flying with uncommon grace.

Marcus was born in a New York to a cellist and a painter, and was bred on a diet of Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, The Supremes, Bob Dylan, and Judy Collins, all of whose influences are evident in her music today. Later she discovered Lou Reed, who has clearly also had a profound effect on her songwriting. In her twenties, she migrated westward, where she discovered the American Music Club and was inspired to begin recording and performing her own material. The Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek -- also deeply influenced by the American Music Club -- produced and played on Marcus's 1993 debut EP, Demerol and on her 1996 full-length, River of Dreams. Marcus has also released Weeds and Lilies (1995), Faith Burns (1998), and Black Hole Heaven (2000), which she recorded with American Music Club alum Tim Mooney. That last album includes the featured "Lot 309," a surreal song that marvelously evokes the strange damaged beauty of life in Los Angeles.

Marcus's work is clearly marked by the brooding, ultra-reflective imprimatur of Kozelek and AMC's Mark Eitzel, but there are a host of other influences at play in her songs, including Cohen, Nico-era Velvet Underground, and alluring female cabaret singers like Marlene Dietrich. And there's a whole bunch more that's simply Hannah Marcus: moments that feel like the twisted remnants of strange dreams or childhood memories. Marcus truly has a unique voice and it's well worth listening to.