Thursday, April 30, 2015
Lila Rose's We Animals on CD
I'm starting to feel that same malaise about modern music as other people my age--it seems like it's been forever since I've heard something that was both original and different and still for, you know, the kids. Just a few years ago I was such a staunch defender of new music and constantly offered up such 21st century classics such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Archandroid and so many others as irrefutable proof. In 2015, everything's starting to sound the same, which of course means it's all merely starting to sound like the good stuff that was released forty years ago.
That's why I sat up and took immediate notice of Lila Rose's new CD, We Animals. I don't want to say it defies description, because her percussion-centered anthems often remind me of such artists as Florence + the Machine, Muse and perhaps even a little Adam and the Ants and Siouxsie Sue thrown in for good measure. But this Canadian-born singer has done something extremely interesting here. She's made a real '70s-style concept album about one of today's most troubling issues--protecting all of the species of animals from the damage we're administering to the planet. This might not play in Tallahassee.
Rose's approach to this type of rhythmic Goth pop is unique. She suffers from hyperacusis, a disorder that makes many so-called natural sounds unbearable to hear. That's why every aspect of these songs sound so strange and different--they've been massaged and guided through an uncommon filter. Even when hear somewhat familiar themes in more accessible songs such as "Confessions" or the opening "Stars," there's always an element that's slightly askew whether it's the somewhat alien drone of the backing vocals or a full string and horn section used to heighten the drama.
Another pleasant surprise is found in the excellent sound quality--it's one of those rare pop recordings that can be cranked up loudly without sounding unduly compressed or distorted. Rose and producer Daniel Garcia chose to record much of this album "in a small studio in the woods outside Santa Cruz." It was a clear effort to provide a different sound than Rose's 2012 debut Heart Machine, something more primitive and natural to better reflect the environmental issues she's presenting. There's a stunning beauty to the percussive strikes that punctuate every song, something that's notable for an artist who has, up until know, specialized in a more electronic sound.
We're already four months into 2015, and this is the first pop/rock/whatever album that actually made think about my next year-end list and what would ultimately be on it. We Animals has the early lead.