CULTURE

Local pop-folk wondergirl Monika at Fuzz

Local pop-folk wondergirl Monika is scheduled for two shows on February 17 and 18 at the Fuzz music venue in Athens (1 Patriarchou Ioakeim, Tavros, tel 6985.555.081).

The young Greek singer-songwriter, who burst onto the domestic pop scene in 2008 with her platinum debut album ?Avatar,? returns for the first time since her appearance at the sold-out Ark Festival last September ? and she does so with a new, much-anticipated album, ?Exit,? which contains all the ingredients that made critics and listeners perk their ears to that surprise newcomer.

Only she is not a surprise newcomer anymore.

?Avatar,? a collection of rock-folk songs with English lyrics (?to write lyrics in Greek, you have to be a bit of a poet?), marked a deeply emotional and artistically mature debut ? made all the more surprising by the fact that the singer, a girl with dark hair and full lips that grew up as Monika Christodoulou among the green landscapes of the small central Greece town of Karpenissi, was born only in 1985. ?Avatar’s? most memorable moment, ?Over the Hill,? a brilliant mix of melancholy and vibrancy, flooded the airwaves and comparisons came thick and fast, but not with much accuracy: the Greek PJ Harvey or the Greek Lily Allen.

Monika, who is also studying mathematics (?it makes me a better person?) at the University of Athens, plays the saxophone, guitar, harmonica and drums. As a schoolgirl, she was initiated in the world of music thanks to her older brother, a member of Patra-based Serpentine, who used to jam with Closer and Raining Pleasure ? perhaps the most important representatives of the once-promising domestic English-language rock circuit. Monika was still in high school, but she loved to go along to the concerts or join the jam sessions.

?My main influence was foreign music, because I used to listen to it even when I was a kid. When I was in elementary school, I liked listening to the Beatles,? she had said in an interview with Kathimerini. ?I was weaned on the sounds of my parents and my older brother. From Greek music only [composer Stavros] Xarhakos’s rebetiko made a huge impression on me. It was totally psychedelic, even beyond Pink Floyd standards.?

As Monika prepared to launch the follow-up to the much-hyped ?Avatar,? many critics were ready to knock her down (this is Greece, after all). Despite the heavy burden of expectations, ?Exit? did not disappoint. ?Ca Commence Bien,? (the Hatzidakis-inspired, bouzouki-led!) ?Yes I Do? and ?Not Enough? are very good songs. You will find here everything that made ?Avatar? a great album and, perhaps, that is its biggest weakness: the surprise element is gone. Some of the riskier verbal acrobatics don’t help but, overall, the production is even more refined than in her previous work credit of Berlin-based Guy Sternberg of the LowSwing recording studio.

Not bad for a girl who once dreamt of becoming a toll collector.