Lila Rose – We Animals

album_image

Lila Rose – We Animals

I hadn’t ever heard of the condition hyperacusis before I began writing this review, but it seems that Lila Rose had the misfortune to be born with the condition, which affects the muscles of the ear and can make some everyday noises unbearable, even painful to hear. Exactly what effect this has had on Lila Rose’s music isn’t perhaps something that she can or wants to discuss openly, and after listening to We Animals I’m perplexed as to exactly what types of sound Lila Rose has difficulty with. Alt folk? Nope. Electronica? Definitely not. Choral vocal arrangements that can resemble the Voix Bulgare ensemble? Not those either, or clicking, bass-led percussion or intricate and echoing electro-acoustic guitar. I am aware that I am getting sidetracked away from my actual review by these hypothetical questions but aside from those several aging 1960s rockers that are known to have actually gone deaf, Lila Rose is the very first musician that I have ever reviewed who suffers from an aural complaint which, from what I can find out, would defeat most of us if we wanted to actually make music.

Perhaps her hyperacusis only applies to certain sounds (telephones, doorbells, the neighbours) and I’ve said much about this while forgetting that Lila Rose is also a committed environmental activist, and written over 200 words without saying very much about the music on We Animals, but the reason for this is a quite simple one. We Animals is a stunning tour-de-force of an album, alternately fragile, powerful, hypnotic, calm and finally, a truly mysterious piece of musical craft, made all the more compelling by its creators declared personal crises, and its cumulative effect as each track both adds and subtracts the elements that Lila Rose (and longtime collaborator Daniel Garcia) places into each of her songs. Citing Björk and Florence as influences, Lila Rose brings the former’s vocal reach and the latter’s dramatic style into her songs, and there are other influences present, such as the PJ Harvey channelling “World On Fire” and “This Could Be Ha” which resembles Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” remixed by Steve Albini. Yet when it gets to making music that is entirely her own, Lila Rose brings some quite real talent  into play and notably with ninth track “Easy Love”, a piano-based ballad that perhaps represents her own abilities most coherently in its phrasing and subtle grandeur.

Lastly, the album’s title-track is a declaration of sorts. “What we cannot feel is not ours, to not be felt,” runs the lyric over a combination of a string quartet, electronica and some determined sounding drumming. It’s a complicated statement and somehow a summation of the statement Lila Rose is making with the album in its entirety, songs that despite the seeming darkness of their presentation and sometimes their themes, contain a hidden warmth and humanity that is her own personality. Moreover, the need for Lila Rose to overcome her hearing difficulties has given us an album that doesn’t merely reflect that experience but which continually celebrates her overcoming that adversity, and that quite real and emotive impetus is present throughout each track on We Animals.