The third album by this Montreal-based singer/songwriter arrives six years.
Jon Lusk 2009-04-27
The third album by this Montreal-based singer/songwriter arrives six years after The Living Road, which also had a similarly lengthy gestation. It showcases an especially austere artistic vision, with stripped-down arrangements focussing more than ever on her voice and lyrics. Despite its merits, this approach has also drawbacks.
Although waiting this long to use an eponymous title seems perverse, it somehow makes sense. This is the first time she's produced her own work and sung entirely in English, and since she was born in the US, English is her first language. Lhasa has also sung fluently in Spanish and French on previous albums, reflecting a peripatetic upbringing and formative years.
What her French-speaking fans (who far outnumber those in the Anglophone world) will make of this new departure remains to be seen. Additionally, the delightfully tinkling harp of Sarah Pagé (especially pretty on Fool's Gold) is one of the most distinctive features of this record, and is perhaps a nod to Lhasa's mother, also a harper.
Long-term Lhasa fans should be warned there's more of Lhasa and less of most other things here, especially compared to the diverse and ambitious arrangements of The Living Road. This time around, much simpler settings frame Lhasa's dreamlike lyrics and yearning vocals, which suggest a largely defrosted Nico. Aside from Pagé, Joe Grass's pedal steel and resonator
guitars, along with drums, percussion and upright bass make up most of the other instrumentation.
The songs all seem cut from a similar cloth, which gives things an impressive unity, although some may find that a little monotonous. As usual, matters of the heart are Lhasa's main lyrical concern, although she occasionally falls into ropey rhyme schemes, perhaps most embarrassingly on Where Do You Go (''And your eyes fall rain/From pain from pain/ I say never
Never mind, there are compensations aplenty, such as the waltzing grace and beguiling tempo changes of Is Anything Wrong, the bluesy lope of Love Came Here, and the spectral, late night vibe of I'm Going In, which finds Lhasa accompanying her own moody ruminations on piano.