Ben Spier
February 23, 2010 AT 03:23 PM EST

On April Smith’s 2005 debut CD,  loveletterbombs, the Jersey Shore native revealed an intriguingly skewed lyrical sensibility and a penchant for winsome pop, gifts too easily swaddled by generic rock arrangements. On her new, self-released LP, Songs From a Sinking Ship, the Lollapalooza vet makes a great leap forward by taking a step back…to the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Backed by the crack ensemble the Great Picture Show, Smith throws herself headlong into piano-and-horns saloon ballads like the aching “Can’t Say No,” or the relentless clap-along boogie of the album’s standout track, “Colors.” What keeps all of this from descending into dewy-eyed faux nostalgia, however, is the singer’s thoroughly modern ‘tude: In the doo-wopish “Drop Dead Gorgeous” she breezily dismisses a vapid hottie with razored zingers (“You’re so enchanting when your mouth is closed/With a mouth like that, who needs politics and prose?”) And on the creamy, string-laden “Stop Wondering” she snarls at a departed lover, “Bitch, please — I’ve got better things to do.” April, please. You may have better things to do than this, but we don’t know what they are. (Songs From a Sinking Ship is available from Feb. 23 at aprilsmithmusic.com.)

Check out this rousing YouTube clip from the tutu-clad singer below.

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