By Abby Jeffers, Contributor
[Hardly Art; 2018]
Key Tracks: “Water Over Sex”, “Dove”
Chicago-based indie rock band Lala Lala made a strong return with its sophomore album, The Lamb. Following a somewhat caustic debut album, Sleepyhead, in 2016, this second record takes refuge in its vulnerability.
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The Lamb resulted from a period of “intense paranoia after a home invasion, deaths of loved ones and general violence,” said frontwoman Lillie West. It comes after the end of West’s reckless party lifestyle and the beginning of her sobriety. The result is a clearer look at her insecurity, addiction and loss throughout the course of 32 minutes of quirky, indie rock.
At times, Lala Lala tiptoes precariously close to mind-numbingly repetitive indie rock. “Moth” and “The Flu” are just barely not too similar. Plus, the introductions of several songs almost fall into a generic category before being saved by the tempo and instrumentals picking up, or by West launching into a strong-yet-delicate verse about grief or by a saxophone jumping into the mix.
However, West’s vocals and the instrumentals are versatile and reflect the individual tone of each track. On “I Get Cut”, West’s flat and deadened voice, as if speaking to someone who hurt her, is punctuated by interjections from distorted guitar riffs as she sings, “I get cut with every touch / You come by and soak it up.” Later, “When You Die”, which was written about both a car accident that involved friends of West and a string of her own near-death experiences, features the repetition of the lines, “Keep my friends safe, night and day / Keep my friends safe, now and always,” as haunting background vocals add an eerie quality to the song.
The fifth track, however, may be the most simple and beautiful on the album. In the beginning, “Dove” is primarily a bass melody, low vocals and a little bit of ricocheting synth. The anticipation builds with the percussion, though, and the background instrumental is just faded enough to sound as if it is coming from underwater. It is about the death of a loved one according to West, a fact that is evident in her sorrow-soaked vocals as she croons, “Make me bigger than this / I keep messing up / I did the right thing / And for what?” West ends “Dove” with 30 seconds of soft, ringing synths. It is vaguely reminiscent of the way Sufjan Stevens mourns his mother in “Blue Bucket of Gold”; in a radio interview, he said that he didn’t know how to say goodbye, so he decided to “surrender [her] to the beyond with noises that sound bigger than just [himself].”
Sometimes it is the act of letting go that is the hardest, and when there simply aren’t words to do so, the only thing to do is let the music speak for itself. Whether saying goodbye to an old lifestyle or an old friend, with the release of The Lamb, West and Lala Lala have done exactly that.