Caroline Keys, aka Stellarondo, made this eponymous debut in response to the 2010 RPM Challenge, where musicians write and record an album in 28 days—just for the hell of it. It's one of the more eccentric creations I've heard in the past year, a completely lovable collection of strange tales (a vegetarian discovers a volcano in her backyard) and imaginative instruments (rice, coffeetable, a phone's busy signal).
The upbeat jazziness of "Asian Grocery," a track about eating unagi and drinking hot saki, makes you feel like you should be dancing the Charleston. "Hotel Roberts" stews in dark Appalachian banjo and the opening track, "What I Know," showcases a stunning country lament fortified by the exquisite yearning of local musician Gibson Hartwell's pedal steel.
Keys, a former Indy writer who is best known as the guitarist for local bluegrass/ roots bands Broken Valley Roadshow and Wise River Mercantile, takes risks that makes this album utterly endearing. On "RPMS" she puts on a low, sensual David Bowie rock 'n' roll voice and sings about chickens. On another song, she whispers mantras that include words like "Saturday Night Live" and "cartwheels." These quirky, fearless elements make Stellarondo feel spontaneous and crazy, while still exemplifying some sophisticated songwriting.