Toronto-born and California-based singer/songwriter Lila Rose has grown up with two overpowering loves in her life; her passion for music even overpowering her hyperacusis, a sensitivity that makes some natural sounds unbearable, and some music even more intense to listen to. Lila’s second loves came in the form of protecting the animals that call out planet home, but this is once again conflicted with humans’ attitude to the world. This record, WE.ANIMALS., released today, sees these loves combined in what she describes as “the animal album”. Unsure of whether she could make the album, Lila sought the advice of a clairvoyant, who suggested another album before this release. In the artist’s own words, “she was wrong”.
WE.ANIMALS. was recorded with producer/band mate Daniel Garcia, between a small woodland studio outside Santa Cruz and renowned Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. When it comes to her change in style away from electronica, Lila reflects, “Daniel helped me understand that I had some dark rock in my soul. He definitely brought that out in me. That dark organic weird heavy sound like Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and Radiohead. We also definitely wanted to hold instruments in our hands as opposed to sitting in front of a computer.”
It only takes half a minute into the album for Lila to showcase the variety of her vocal ability, set neatly against the finger style guitar of Stars, a track that manages to be both fragile and forceful as it rolls onwards. With a powerful, bassy sound to Tracking, there’s a Larkin Poe vibe coming through the track, and despite the dominating and attention grabbing instrumental, the message of the vocals isn’t lost.
Confessions is another chance to show off the experimental edge that influences the lyrics’ backdrop, before This Could Be HA showcases a Regina Spektor-esque side to Lila’s vocals, as in later piano lead Easy Love, and holds the stop-start passion of a Florence and The Machine track. From the bassy, rocky opening to the distorted vocals, there’s a wilder side to the album shown in Nothing To Lose, but this doesn’t stop her from filling gaps with her wafer thin voice, fighting tough against the dipped-in-grunge sound of the backing.
Like a wind down from the enthusiasm of the previous belter, World On Fire slows the pace, dramatic and cinematic in its sluggish pace and dramatic weight, allowing Now to slowly pull things pace up. With the raw, passionate edge it feels like the vocals were recorded live to a vast, empty room; the effect is an under-your-skin atmosphere.
Servant shows her talent for layering vocals and love of her rocky side, before earnest Misunderstood letting Lila’s vocals lead. The beginning of the end comes with a string intro, progressing to a chorus holding rough undertones to conveying the track’s message in the finale, We Animals. Encompassing both the best features of Lila’s work in terms of music, and the clear moral of the album, this is the strongest record closer I’ve heard this year.
WE.ANIMALS. was released yesterday – listen to World On Fire below.