lang’s fresh start finds her more energetic and playful than she’s been for years.
Jaime Gill 2011-05-06
"I’ve lost my edge," k.d. lang laments on Habit of Mind, a sultry highlight of Sing It Loud; "I’ve spent most of my life running in circles… what a shame." It’s a daring lyric: after all, many would say these words sum up lang's post-Ingénue career, her subsequent music often drifting towards the bland and directionless. Certainly, when in early 2010 the Canadian torch singer released Recollection, a retrospective set, it seemed like a resigned acknowledgement that her glory days were in the past.
Which is exactly why Sing It Loud is so instantly striking. Recollection could easily have marked the end of the road, but lang has instead turned it into a fresh start. Recording in a band for the first time in a quarter-century seems to have provided a much-needed shot of adrenaline: opener I Confess begins adrift in the same acoustic prettiness which has characterised her later work, before a dramatically slashing guitar jolts the listener awake.
And lang is certainly awake: her vocals haven’t sounded this energetic and playful in many years. On I Confess she slides up and down scales like a purring pole dancer, a reminder that as well as perfect pitch and exquisite control, she has always had an incredibly, mysteriously sexy voice. I Confess is swiftly followed by the alluring A Sleep With No Dreams, which finds lang gorgeously swooning and sighing over sparse, brooding rockabilly with a deliciously gothic Angelo Badalamenti edge.
After a bold opening, lang's Siss Bang Boom collaborators fade into the background, their music wobbling on the narrow edge between languid and tepid. Fortunately, lang herself remains utterly arresting: the lukewarm lounge-music of the title-track would be soporific if it weren't for her superbly feline delivery, half kitten, half lion. She likewise rescues the grizzled countryisms of Sugar Buzz with vocal flourishes which leave the listener – but not lang – breathless. Unfortunately, even this revered voice can't breathe life into the hopelessly generic, sub-Hejira melancholy of Inglewood.
That lang is a greater and more radiant talent than the rest of the Siss Bang Boom combined is obvious, but so is the fact that in mysterious ways this strange marriage has helped her find her feet and voice again. If she needs them, we do too, as long as it produces songs as rich, masterful and seductive as these.