|Kyla La Grange — Ashes [Deluxe Edition] (2012)|
Kyla La Grange — Ashes [Deluxe Edition]
Born: 2009 in Watford, England
Location: London, England, UK
Album release: August 7, 2012
Record Label: Sony UK
01.) Walk Through Walls 3:56
02.) Courage 4:15
03.) I Could Be 3:24
04.) To Be Torn 4:23
05.) Vampire Smile 2:43
06.) Woke Up Dead 3:37
07.) Been Better 3:40
08.) Heavy Stone 4:12
09.) You Let It Go 2:42
10.) Catalyst 4:06
11.) Lambs; Sympathy 11:39
12.) Love You Better 2:58
13.) Walk 2:46
14.) The River 3:45
Press contact: Jon Lawrence —
Reservé agent: Alex Bruford —
Main manager: Joe Taylor (contact — )
≡ Kyla La Grange has had a very busy year, one in which she’s released 3 singles, toured extensively and recorded her debut album. She’s come a long way in a very short space of time; it’ll be little over a year since the release of debut single Been Better by the time Ashes sees the light of day. Some artists opt for a steady ascent — there are plenty about who wait two or even three years before releasing a full–length record — but La Grange has also been moving quickly. She’s made the most of the opportunities afforded to her, and her star looks set to rise even higher off the back of an album that sounds wonderfully accomplished. As well it might — she’s been writing songs since a very young age.
≡ “I wasn’t a very happy child,” she admits when musing on the kind of experiences she writes about. “It led me to write songs and draw pictures — stuff you can do on your own. I have so many booklets of songs from when I was 12 or 13, and they’re so depressing!” She’s clearly drawn to the darker side of life. Enough has been said about how adversity can produce great art, and the idea of the tortured artist has become horribly cliché, as though some of these people sabotage themselves so they can write about it. Not so with La Grange; she’s simply drawing on her past. Much of the material on Ashes deals with four separate, failed relationships, suggesting that the album will prove heavy going; but this doesn’t turn out to be the case. While she will also admit that some of her songs are sad and introverted, a lot of them, like Walk Through Walls, are imbued with a palpable sense of hope.
≡ One facet of her sound that is inescapable, even more so than the way that skeletal folk songs are completely transformed by having a full band behind them (a case in point being the completely reworked version of last year’s Heavy Stone, which is paired with Been Better in the middle of the album to great effect), is her voice. It contains a quiet, compelling power; she doesn’t need to holler and shout such lyrics as “If you fall into my arms, I will keep you fallen / And if you break down in my doorway, I will sleep with you there” (from I Could Be) when the passion can be felt just as easily by reining herself in. In the same way, when she strips things back, the effect of her songs can be magnified, and this is the case with Vampire Smile.
≡ Despite the downbeat and reflective nature of much of the lyrical content on Ashes, it is a remarkably full-sounding listen, thanks in part to La Grange’s backing band, who come into their own towards the album’s close; inventive rhythms and exquisite harmonies give You Let It Go an audible sense of urgency, and the closer Lambs is catchily fleshed out by a layered sound that builds to an irresistible finish. There is plenty of darkness explored across this album’s 11 songs, but there’s also plenty of light. La Grange has indeed risen, phoenix–like, from the ashes of what’s gone before, and now is her time to soar.
Biography by Scott Kerr
≡ Kyla La Grange, a Cambridge University philosophy graduate and bewitching folk-pop songstress, originally plied her trade in the anonymity of open-mike nights in darkened bars. Hailing from Watford, England, she quickly met like-minded musicians, forming a backing band and writing songs with bigger aspirations than the small student pubs she had become accustomed to. After finishing her studies and moving to London, La Grange concentrated on her music, which began to take on a brooding, darker tone. She was signed to indie label Chess Club and released her first single, "Been Better," in 2011. Once settled in London, she played a series of gigs at the popular Communion nights in Notting Hill, London -- the breeding ground for contemporaries Ben Howard, Treetop Flyers, and Marcus Foster — and demonstrated her acute songwriting talent and poignant lyrics.
≡ Influences such as Cat Power and Joni Mitchell only scratch the surface of her gothic, pastoral folk. Her inventive live stage show would often involve foliage, glitter, and a tiara made of pigeon bones. Invoking comparisons to the pageantry of Florence Welch and the mysticism of Bat for Lashes, La Grange's theatrics and stage presence provided an eerie backdrop to her darkly dramatic folk–pop tales of heartache and loss. With her strong, angsty vocals, La Grange's soaring, epic choruses in "Heavy Stone" and "Vampire Soul" gained her many plaudits, and major labels were alerted to her raw talent. By Fiona Kirkpatrick, 27 July 2012, 6/10
≡ 24 year old Kyla La Grange, a University of Cambridge philosophy graduate, has been a fixture on the alternative London music scene for a couple of years now. She’s long been a mainstay at Communion UK club nights, and over the course of the past year has come out with three 7” singles on respected indie label Chess Club. La Grange’s debut album Ashes, released on July 30th through ioki Records/Sony, is a hard-earned but much deserved victory. With Ashes, La Grange joins the ranks of Clare Maguire and Anna Calvi as one of the most promising and talented British female singer-songwriters to emerge in the wake of the success of Florence + the Machine.
≡ Ashes begins with ‘Walk through Walls’, a track which has undergone some significant studio treatment since it was first released as a Chess Club single in early 2011. The song is typical of La Grange’s sound: dramatic and infectious in a non-traditional way. It’s followed by ‘Courage’, a tune of similar ilk. La Grange sets expectations for her audience early on. If you don’t like the first two tracks, you probably won’t like the rest of the album.
≡ La Grange has been marketed as a kind of Cyndi Lauper meets 21st century Guinevere. Her branding is obvious, but accurate: Cyndi comes across in her vocals, Guinevere in her lyrics. On ‘Vampire Smile’ she sings about drinking her lover’s blood – “I’m gonna get so drunk on you and kill your friends/And you’ll need me and we can be obsessed” – but her words are implicitly awash in the afterglow of the success of popular vampire fiction and film. Bloodsucking is not as edgy a pastime as it once was.
Tracks like ‘Heavy Stone’ are delightfully reminiscent of Kate Bush, showcasing La Grange’s vocals and demonstrating the visceral effect that her music can have on its listener. Other standout songs include ‘Been Better’ and ‘Lambs’ which illustrate the pleasing synergy between La Grange and her band, something that distinguishes her from the likes of Maguire. Ashes celebrates La Grange’s voice, her band’s music, and the connection between them.
≡ The album’s main flaw is that its sound is almost too uniform for its own good; all of the tracks on Ashes sound different in the same way. But there’s no doubt that La Grange has taken a formula, in the post-Florence era, and infused it with fresh and appealing life. Her lyrics are not as interesting as Florence’s or even Maguire’s, but they’re less obtuse. La Grange is just more Pop.
≡ The most pleasant surprise on Ashes is ‘Sympathy’. The track pairs the full range of La Grange’s voice with stripped-down but captivating guitar music. On it, and indeed throughout the whole album, you can hear echoes of La Grange’s foremothers: Bush, Lauper, Björk, and Florence. The entire album reflects the sound of familiar artists, but avoids being overly derivative. Ashes mainly looks backwards; La Grange may not offer a concrete idea of where female alt–pop artists are going, but she paints a lovely picture of where they’ve been. “I felt like it was the only way I could release all the noise and cluttered emotions inside my head. It's a place where I can be alone and immerse myself in emotions that I don't really know how to handle in real life.” These are the insightful words of Kyla La Grange on her songwriting, which is unsurprisingly haunting. This statement makes a lot of sense within her debut, 'Ashes.' By the sound of it, she really has poured her life and limb into this album. The Watford–raised singer/songwriter joins the ranks of other female artists with epic ideas for production and poignant pipes to match. Over the past year the likes of Lykki Li, Saint Saviour and Niki & The Dove have thrown something fresh to the generic 'female singer' stereotype. Kyla La Grange also follows the trend.
≡ Produced at 123 studios in Shoreditch by Brett Shaw, 'Ashes' is a beautiful listen. Each of the eleven tracks are made up of the same components. Kyla's dynamic and uplifting voice is combined with ambitious production, creating an unreachable atmosphere. The structure and tone is similar to Clare Maguire's 2011 debut 'Light After Dark.' 'Been Better' and the last lingering section of 'To Be Torn' especially fit together with this comparison. Though these similar features are recognizable throughout the record, each seems to bear its on characteristic and story within its different instrumental surroundings. Thankfully Kyla La Grange has managed not to nose dive into that common hole of every track on a record ‘merging’ in to one with no definition.
≡ ‘You burn my ears with your magic voice’ and ‘we’ll draw in breaths like we don’t have air’ are some unusual lovesick phrases presented in previous single ‘Vampire Smile.’ Not your usual romancing expressions. Your ears pick up these snappy captions as you search for more unpredictable gifts of language. Though there is a certain naughty word that lies, showing some rugged heat to contrast with the soft, romantic barriers of ‘Ashes.’ ‘Heavy Stone’ and ‘Courage’ are particular foundations of these barriers with their folk feel. Opener ‘Walk Through Walls’ and last track ‘Lambs’ both have dramatic beats and high vocals that resemble the early energy of Florence and The Machine.
♠ Kyla La Grange has created a spectacular debut, crafted around her terrific talents. Watch out all you notable ‘alternative’ female artists who’ve made your mark recently. ≡ Kyla is out to impress. (http://www.contactmusic.com); 9/10
© Paul Hudson, June 4, 2012
|Kyla La Grange — Ashes [Deluxe Edition] (2012)|