Via Australia, jazz infusion, the instrumental group Trinkets, and session play it becomes more and more clear in listening, where she’s been.
Two songs back to back cover so much territory. “Bitch” follows “Little Girl.” Though musically SJL easily covers the purity / whore spectrum fine, a dark dark cloud hovers over both songs. There’s no breeze pushing the bad smells away; nothing to cool the pain like a mother’s breath on a scary wound. Both are raw and open.
“Little Girl” goes through a series of childhood memories of people she knew back then, back when. The listener is never quite sure whether these are self-referential or just fictional observations of what might have happened. No doubt intended this way, the song is immature, it’s twee — despite the subject matter — with the reflective capacity, not of the adult looking back but the innocence of the girl only a few small steps removed from it all.
While a couple of phrases clang – “When I was just a little little girl, I had a best friend, her skin was black” – much more prominent is an angelic harmony that glides across the surface; bringing to mind the same girl spinning in slow motion across an ice rink’s oval, her breath clouding.
Overall, the voice of this CD, Lack, is of someone with no answers, yet who still sees a black and white world as visited through these songs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the messages are clearer. In a news release, SJL says her creation, is “A little bit red earth and desert sky, a little bit glistening strings and pixie twists.”
“Bitch” starts to show the complex patterns, well yeah I’m going to go here, being knitted together. There are enough music elements — carefully, deliberatively placed? — to keep you guessing about what might come next. Psychobilly, folk, pop, gothic, chanteuse. There’s violin, of course, since Lack is an accomplished and celebrated artist with the instrument. That makes her restraint on the CD all the more impressive. Sparsity is all the more effective then when diluting every song with an excess of her known strength. When a pull on the bow ends a phrase, a section of a song, it’s shiveringly memorable rather than caught and easily forgotten in the eddy of sound.
The lead off track, Blank Page Day floats a great idea, the urge or desire to wipe the slate clean every morning. Here the lyrics are of more interest than the voice – as if SJL is warming up her voice ready for the concert. Horns provide a great contrast and zest. Though this also seems like it might fit into any chick flick soundtrack. We’ll call that a compliment for now.
The pizzicato notes and bass and the life of “Old Man Perry” perk and compel and
“I was so focused on this song I was actually knitting to the beat,” my girlfriend said, laughing as she completed a sweater sleeve cap.
“Dancer” and “Papa Don’t Go So Fast” are more introspective sounding. “Dancing” echoes “Little Girl” in it’s child-like perspective, while simultaneously stepping delicately around and through and out the other side of flowering womanhood. While “Papa…” offers a history lesson and an aurora australis soundscape; SJL’s voice twists and waves and turns and shows off to an appreciative world, woven into the violin vibrations.
Despite such a disparate range of sounds, a few of the songs end up paced in a similar. “Masked Man” “Knitting Song” and “Long Way To Go” wash over your consciousness, as if the ear can’t catch the subtleties first through. It’s a fine line when listening to an entire album of songs like this; each sounds equisite in isolation, yet there’s a purity or beauty threshold that’s different for everyone.
Yet, in each song, there’s always something new, however small, a word, a tone, a depth (“that’s cello, not violin!”), that wasn’t in the previous song. These alone can prick your ears to tune in and get deeper into underlying patterns. It wears well.
(Credit: Photos by Skye Media)