When I heard that New York’s Social Registry label was going to release a series of limited-edition seven-inch singles, I was intrigued — I’ve loved other seven-inch subscriptions, particularly the Sub Pop Singles Club in the late ’80s/early ’90s. What was more intriguing than the format itself was the news that the series would kick off with a debut single by actress Jena Malone, known for her roles in films such as Saved!, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and Donnie Darko. But even with all that, the most interesting aspect of the single is Malone’s voice itself.
Backed by an able concoction of indie musicians (including Russel Simins of Blues Explosion and Adam Crystal of Dopo Yume), Malone’s voice sounds like a female Devendra Banhart at some points, Feist at others. Her A-side, “Tested Dry,” teases at first (every time I hear it I think I’m listening to Weezer’s “El Scorcho”), then settles into its unpredictable, wandering folk tones. The way the song stops and starts, it almost feels like the song is being written as it’s played (which, in this case, isn’t a bad thing at all).
The B-side, “Green-Eyed Monster,” is a paranoid number that’s either about a drunken, well-endowed ex-lover or a green-eyed monster with a big tail. The chord progressions are even less predictable than its counterpart’s, with strange left turns happening throughout the track. It’s dense and gloomy and thoroughly enjoyable — especially the Nico-esque spoken word outro.
If Malone was trying to surprise her audience with her musical debut, she’s pulled it off. Tested Dry is an excellent intro to Malone’s music and a great way to open the Social Registry’s singles series.