Album Review: Kyla La Grange – Ashes
If you’re a fan of gothic-tinged, distortion-heavy indie-rock topped with a siren-like wail, then you’re probably waiting with baited breath for Kyla La Grange’s debut record, ‘Ashes’. Preceeded by a flurry of low-key single releases, the record brings together the story so far of one of the alternative music scene’s most promising talents. There are, admittedly, quite a few song titles that are recognisable from spending a lifetime on youtube but there are more than a handful of surprises for fans and newcomers alike. Just wait until you hear what’s happened to ‘Heavy Stone’.
Fans of a massive crescendo should get pretty excited for ‘Courage’ and ‘I Could Be’, as well as ‘Vampire Smile’, that does things a little differently. The latter is easily one of the standout tracks on the record and clocking in at under three minutes, leaves you desperate for more. As if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, ‘Walk Through Walls’ could easily sit as as massive festival anthem, should the BBC pick it up for their coverage of Glastonbury next year and ‘Been Better’ will have you on the first listen; a captivating vocal performance courtesy of La Grange and an enchanting, hypnotic guitar riff.
Things never really pick up the pace after the feisty opening track, but we take a few moments of rest regardless. The first is the heart-stopping ‘To Be Torn’. Kyla’s cries are one of the most haunting displays of emotion you’re going to hear in music today – it feels that she is on the verge of tears and it’s in these moments that she excels far and beyond her note-smashing peers. ‘Heavy Stone’ is more of the same and would’ve been an even stronger track, had it not been entirely outdone by the single version of the same track, now dubbed the ‘Chess Club’ version. Regardless, it shimmers with simplicity and a touching performance that elevates it from being cast off as one to ignore.
It’s not a flawless debut by any means. Initially, there won’t be much need for the skip button, but as time goes by, it may get a little extra use on ‘Woke Up Dead’ and ‘Catalyst’; the tracks are inoffensive, but don’t quite harness the same charm as their predecessors. The latter half of the record doesn’t match to the sensational efforts in the first, so perhaps it’s a case of bad organising on the tracklist that has been giving the record the unfair selection of harsh reviews that it isn’t worthy of.
So as this review comes to an end, I’ll gently nod in the direction of the (regular edition) album’s closing arrangement. No, not the listed ‘Lambs’, but the hidden track ‘Sympathy’ – a perfect articulation of where Kyla La Grange holds her strongest skills; a voice that could melt stone, an ear for a killer hook and a brave penchant for the simpler, stripped-back style of music that fits her like a glove.
Words: Simon McMurdo