Marilyn Carino came out of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the Sicilian-American mean streets immortalised in The French Connection, where a corner fish shop was known as a killing floor for mafia hits. Her cousin was in the CIA, her grandmother split the family bakery to jet-set with Spanish royalty, and her father was a real-life Mad Men-esque ad exec.
She skipped school and flew to Europe on a one-way ticket with $200 and ended up staying for over a year working in recording studios and going to raves. She fell in love. She went to jail. In the aftermath, she realised she was doing music vicariously, and decided to make it herself rather than tweak knobs in windowless rooms for others.
Her own musical saga began back in Brooklyn 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 (Rhapsody)." her voice, “powerful to the point of bringing you to tears” (Straight No Chaser) and “smoldering” (The New Yorker); her music, “enchanting - a testament to the healing powers of rhythm” (Nylon); the songs about “troubled longings and bleak, surreal visions” (New York Times); her lyrics, “poetic, filled with imagery” (New York Post). There were collabs with Mike Mills of REM, David Byrne, legendary producers Sly and Robbie and the Words Hurt hip-hop collective.
Moving on to her 2011 solo album, Little Genius and 2015’s Leaves, Sadness, Science, the music went spare, sexy and thick, her voice an affecting instrument with an elegant grittiness, soaring above violent organs and chunky beats, smoky-dark production, and themes that dig for hope. ‘I’m interested in the idea of happiness. Figuring out how to celebrate falling down and being a mess, fucking the wrong people, losing all your money, getting lost in a new place. Failing 99 times and still coming back to get it right on the 100th - if everyone’s watching, or if they don’t care. That’s the solution to the hardening of the world.”
She left the states for good after a UK tour in 2016, when a week in Scotland called her back to stay. “America is a beautiful doomed place of naïve hope and cynicism. A teenage beauty who cuts herself. Scotland is a busty, cheerful loudmouth who’s always good for a kind word and up for your next extreme escapade. That’s the crowd I’ve always wanted to mix with’
City Songs is her first recording since emigrating. It's a reckoning of sorts - each of the seven songs a crystallisation of the cities she’s known; Brooklyn, London, San Francisco, Atlanta, Edinburgh, Glasgow. ‘It takes a long time to get to know a city, what it’s about. Exactly like a person. I have lived in cities my whole life, they offer too many choices. I’m a Taurus, I just consume everything I can’t say no even when I’m full to bursting, too high, clinging to an obvious narcissist. But I’ve realised so many things, what’s in these songs. Now looking back I sincerely love it all, even though a lot of it was disappointing and painful. I’ll never stop devouring. But I’m finally figuring out how to not get it twisted.’