There is fragility about Kyla La Grange. She possesses the kind of physical beauty that defies belief and completely distracts from the person. She could easily have just coasted on her looks alone and become another disposable piece of confectionary trawled through the talent shows and sofa interviews. However she also owns a voice that has been sculptured from sunlight scattering on water. It teeters on tears in some songs but then again it becomes a changeling on others and rips through lyrics with an unmitigated bloodlust.
Ashes is a powerhouse of a production, tweaked and polished in the studio to produce a Spectre-like wall of sound. It worked for him and it sure as hell works for her too. The big numbers are split up with more restrained contributions, proving she is adept at different styles and avoiding the danger of it just becoming variations on a theme.
Perhaps as an overview the whole album could be edgier still. There’s a slight self-consciousness that keeps one foot in the camp of easily digestible pop music so it would be exhilarating to hear her immerse herself more deeply into the shadows that she embraces intermittently. The much vaunted and duly deserved “Vampire Smile” is a great stomp of a song but it’s ultra-white smile could benefit from a couple of sharpened fangs. Then again that’s like saying the Mona Lisa should have had a bit more pink on her lips. Still, there are sufficient gothic references in her work to prevent the music become overly toothsome.
It’s impossible to ignore her compelling infectious energy which wraps around you like a bear hug. “Been Better” may dwell on disappointment and despair but it unequivocally makes you feel better when listening to it. Likewise “Woke up Dead” gathers momentum until it chugs along with an irresistible drumbeat, and “You Let It Go” builds like a stirring anthem which could inspire troops to march off to war if it weren’t for the lyrics. The latter has to be one of the best tracks on the album, if not the best. It coalesces her writing, her voice, musicianship and production into an irresistible tour de force.
In terms of balance the quieter numbers such as “To Be Torn” allow the spun-glass refraction of her delicate voice to sparkle without being drowned by sound. And without doubt the sublime “Heavy Stone” warrants close attention for lyrics that stand out from the crowd. The words and sentiments herein prove she has a poet’s heart. One hopes she can translate more emotions into verse with such efficacy. Listen closely and there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. If Ashes is merely her debut then one can only hope that the Phoenix which rises from it shall be awesome in its spectacle.
Release: 30th July 2012, Sony