BY COLLEEN FOSTER
Brushing off those pop culture paradigms, she defies classification in any either/or, black/white, good girl/bad girl dichotomy. As the title track of The Wing Woman LP goes: “For once could I be the love interest / As well as the comic relief?”
Listening to her inaugural studio release, it’s easy to picture this singer-songwriter nailing that “As well as.” But not by hiding her goofy whims -- rather, boldly using them to fuel our collective crush on the lion-maned, guitar-strumming bundle of paradoxes that is Nardo Lilly.
Northern Virginia native Annie Nardolilli, whose surname-bending musician identity is further evidence of her creativity, is clearly educated in ways that go far beyond her Temple University Bachelor’s degree. From Les Misérables to Yuri Gagarin, Smokey the Bear to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the breadth of her allusions shows off an eclectic pop culture palate.
And, like a spicy food whose capsaicin has a delayed kick a minute after you bite in, the punchlines of her songs sneak up on you. For example: with a slick bluesy electric bass riff, the perennial crowd favorite “Benedict Cumberbatch” enumerates all the traits she desires in a boyfriend. It’s a hefty shopping list, from “look[ing] like David Beckham in his underwear” to “all that 1940s Humphrey Bogart swag.”
But then she flips the switch: “But if I’m supposed to look like the girls in magazines / Then I’ll hold men up to the standards they set up for me / So if you’ve gotta’ have your model / I’ve gotta’ have Benedict Cumberbatch.”
Ha. This is no pining ingenue. The joke’s on you. Or even better, you’re in on it.
Performing live, these twister lines come with a sly smile that pops the bubble. Gigs have included Libertine, Acre 121, and Ebenezers in Washington, D.C., the IOTA Club & Café in Arlington, Virginia, and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This whimsy translates effortlessly on the recording, available as of a month ago on iTunes, CD Baby, and Spotify and intended soon for an old-school compact disc. It is the long-awaited culmination of a summer in the studio under the tutelage of producer and engineer Ken Barnum at Recording Arts in Springfield, Virginia.
Her own guitar and vocals shine center stage, a lyrical pop/folk alto reminiscent of Ingrid Michaelson and Vanessa Carlton. She is backed up on all nine original compositions by Kyle Harlos’s smooth strums on the bass, Corie Schofield’s soulful violin that can morph into a good ole fiddle when it needs to evoke the 1860s (check out “Appomattox”) and Ethan Drake’s reliable percussion.
“Kitty Hawk” has a pensiveness to her future, an earnest recognition of where she is but reminding any standby not to underestimate her. “Don’t think that just because I’ve found my wings / Means I’m going anywhere anytime soon / But now you see I can fly across the beach / And in due time / I’ll make it beyond the moon.” Alright, then. We are buckled in and ready for takeoff. Let’s go along for the ride.
Colleen Foster is a freelance writer, editor, artist, and language teacher in Arlington, Virginia. She carries Bachelor's degrees in Spanish and English from Shenandoah University, and her work previously appeared in Luna Luna in "10 Signs You're A Politi-Kid."