The Good: Lyrics, Vocals are not bad
The Bad: Repetitive sounding, Instrumental accompaniment and vocals are very mundane
The Basics: Shadows is an album that completely blends into the background when it is on, but when one listens to the lyrics being sung, they are almost universally assaulted with some of the saddest, most horrific songs ever produced.
I love how two people can have perceptions of something that are virtually identical, but almost completely different in the effect they have. Today, when I had the Lilly Wood And The Prick album Shadows on for several hours, my wife turned to me and said, "I like it; it's good background music" and I watched as she would wiggle her feet along to some of the disco beats. When she weighed in with her opinion, I nodded and admitted that that was what I did not like about the album; none of the songs were standing out. We both felt the album, musically, blended together into a fairly indistinct auditory blur and while that comforted my wife, it left me underwhelmed.
As a reviewer, I have a whole category for such albums: they fall into the classification of "Indistinct." There are a ton of albums I have reviewed that fall into that category and Shadows may be one of the best of the ones that I have reviewed. The real catch with Shadows for me came when I started catching some of the lyrics being sung over the murky tunes or dance tracks. So many of the lines being sung on Shadows are either depressing or outright horrifying.
With fifteen songs, clocking out at 58:29, Shadows is the work of Lilly Wood And The Prick. The duo of Nili Hadida and Benjamin Cotto wrote all of the songs and Hadida provides all of the lead vocals. Cotto provides supporting vocals and together they play the lion's share of the instruments on the album. While they were not involved with mixing the songs, they seem to exert enough creative control over their work to define Shadows as the album they intended to release.
Musically, Shadows is a bit of a departure from the Lilly Wood And The Prick's albums Invincible Friends (reviewed here!) and The Fighter (reviewed here!). Shadows is far less experimental in its sound and musical diversity. Instead, the songs alternate between dance pop songs with up-tempo keyboards and murky bass and keyboard driven tracks that are modern dirges. "L'enfance," for example, lacks a strong, recognizable tune, so the vocals drive any sense of music it possesses. Basslines in the songs blend from song to song creating a surprisingly homogeneous sound for Shadows and it hobbles the album by failing to let any single track break out to catch the ear of the listener.
That said, Hadida's vocals are competent and (mostly) clear. On tracks like "Shadows," Hadida's primary vocals repeat the same line over and over at such length that her voice becomes entirely hypnotic. Benjamin Cotto's supporting vocals break out only on "Collapse" when he harmonizes with Hadida. What changed my perception of Shadows was the second half of the album. On "By Myself," Hadida's vocals go up into a higher register and break out from the instrumental accompaniment. When that happens, she suddenly seems more articulate - like she is enunciating more. And that is when the lyrics pop and the listener starts to catch what a dark place Lilly Wood And The Prick is mired in for the album.
"By Myself" might well be the perfect post-break-up song. The musical protagonist has a core of inner strength and when Hadida sings "Faces haunting hallways / Witches in corners, witches / My monsters are trying to speak / They only have nice things to say / There are ghosts everywhere, / There are ghosts everywhere / I'm well, by myself" ("By Myself"), the lyrics resonate. For once, the repetition does not simply become mind-numbing; it is a chant of strength.
Lilly Wood And The Prick continues their trend of having some intriguing musical story songs with wonderful imagery on Shadows. Arguably the best on Shadows is "Le Chant Des Sirenes." The duo paints a very strong sense of place and mood with the lyrics "Every step we take drives us away / When all we try to do is get much closer / Lost in a blue swamp, soaking wet / Creatures calling out to save remains / Will we drown alone? / Our lungs filled with regrets" ("Le Chant Des Sirenes").
Shadows ends in a dark place, at least for those who have overcome the musical thread that makes the instrumental accompaniment blend each song together. The album, which has songs exploring abuse, loss and assault ends powerfully with "I Hate You." "I Hate You" is one of the rare songs that effectively expresses anger toward an abuser without letting out the sounds of raw rage or sounding in any way dippy or whiny. Instead, with lines like "It's a mistake that / You made me do / I ask for nothing / But for you to leave / Now face it, now face it / Now face me / Go to hell, go to hell / Go to hell / I don't forgive you / I hate you" ("I Hate You") Lilly Wood And The Prick effectively gives voice to survivors and provides a musical catharsis for those who wish they could tell-off their abusers!
Shadows might be a better album than I give it credit for; it clearly has something to say and it is exceptionally well-written, even if so many of the lines are very difficult to hear. But the sound of the album is indistinct and while that might be clever and deceptive, it just did not work as well as it could have for me. Instead, it numbs the listener into a mundane place before the vocals cut through and stab the listener with horrifying and sad statements.
The best track is "By Myself" (though "Forget" is a close second!); the rest of the album is fine, but pretty much on par with itself, making for no truly weak tracks.
For other albums that have an indistinct sound, please visit my reviews of:
Hu manBe ing - Seal
Your Little Secret - Melissa Etheridge
Slow Motion Daydream - Everclear
For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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