on 16 August 2009
While I certainly think I understand the reasons for the initial disappointment of some listeners here (some might even have expected a La Llorona follow-up?), I really must disagree with those who discredits this album.
It might seem a bit.. quiet and static at first (low-level) listen, however, prolonged listening shows that it's truly full of great songs imo. How could one otherwise describe songs like "I'm going in", "Love came here", "A fish on land" and all the other gems on this album? Beautiful!
The tunes are simple but effective, and the band is well-judged quiet but agile. The soundscape is simple and almost understated; I can easily imagine that the songs won't blossom through a kitchen radio, low-fi system or suchlike; but through a high quality audiophile-level music system, the musical and emotional energy of Lhasa and her band shines through with full power. And what energy and qualities Lhasa posesses! In that sense, one might say that this is almost an audiophile's album, as its musical qualities seems to need a good playback system to reveal themselves fully; but it's also a lovely collection of tender and beautiful songs. Her voice is captured beautifully by the sound engineers, and the album has a closeup sound that suits it.
It's nothing like the youthful and high-voltage La Llorona from 10 years ago, which was a truly great and legendary album bristeling with latino energy and great songs; now we meet a far more introspective and intimate Lhasa, one might say more adult; and I'm happy to report that this is a great new expression from a great artist, not a second rate try-to-follow-up of her opus magnum La Llorona.
on 7 September 2009
This is quite simply one of the finest albums of 2009. Less exotic in its arrangements than the previous 'The Living Road', these songs are built upon the principle that Lhasa's voice and her brave, stark lyrics are the focal point. The spare but nonetheless intriguing and accomplished arrangements never overwhelm Lhasa's performance, and the result is a haunting, beguiling and unforgettable experience. These songs insinuate themselves into your consciousness, ravishing in their unadorned beauty, yearning and yet graceful in their lyrics, often dreamlike in their use of symbol and strangeness that is, yet, delivered with an honesty and matter-of-factness that is striking.
I do miss Lhasa singing in Spanish and French (these songs are all in English), but that is only a small loss compared to the wonder that is this album.
on 2 November 2015
Unbelievably sad: LHASA’s breast cancer at the young age of 37…For 22 months she had been fighting the illness, leaving behind nine brothers and sisters, 16 nieces and nephews, both her still living parents, her cat and her boy friend. And thousands of fans all over the world. Questions and rumours were already going around since her gig, scheduled for December 3, 2009 at the Volkshaus in Zurich, was cancelled on June 8. Of course, nobody gave away more precise details! In such situations, no-one needs well-intended words of advice or intrusive queries by fans. I think poorly of pathos. On the death of an idol, it is vital to sidestep projections and to dissociate oneself sharply from possible self-pity. For all that, I hazard the allegation: A sublime singer like LHASA will not come so swiftly on the scene for the next 30 years. Comparisons must be drawn with greats like Billie Holiday, Om Kalsoum, Nina Simone, or Chavela Vargas.
Her last album LHASA calls for a completely new interpretation. We are accustomed to conceive poetical song lyrics as pure metaphors. In her lyrics we may figure out a number of clues to existential questions about life and death:
When my lifetime had just ended
And my death had just begun
I told you I'd never leave you
But I knew this day would come
LHASA, I'm going in, 2009
Bells are ringing
We both know
There's nothing left to do
But walk out there and go
LHASA, Bells, 2009
I had a dream last night
A fish on land
Gasping for breath
And sang this song
LHASA, Fish on land, 2009
My prison will be broken down
The dark will come undone
A thousand and one night of this
And then the change will come
LHASA, 1001 nights, 2009
Stefan Franzen adds: "The line-up is reduced with concert harp, pedal steel guitar and piano, country and gospel choirs appear, her voice comes across more immediate and more fragile than ever. A reduction that is hard to bear in many passages, already suggesting otherworldly things, similar to Nick Drake’s album Pink Moon (1972)." - There are yet other instances on that account: Himmel & Hölle (1995) by Rio Reiser, Diary Of A Snake Charmer (2002) by Dominique Alioth or Look At The Fool (1974) by Tim Buckley.
LHASA’s ascent with a million sold records and large-scale concert tours is a phenomenon as it almost happened in secret, and not in the context of remixes for the dance floor or numerous singles (as for instance with Jeff Buckley or Bjoerk). The secret to this: At all times LHASA was surrounded by brilliant musicians who were able to follow her somnambulistic compositions to its most delicate ramifications (an example is the instrumental final part in J'arrive à la ville, 2003). Similar cross-cultural orientated projects can be found with acts like Manu Chao, 17 Hippies, Pascal Comelade, Accordion Tribe, Vinicio Capossela, Iva Bittova, Ensemble Rayé, Stimmhorn, or Lula Pena.
She didn’t run things by the book, finding fame mostly by word-of-mouth recommendation and hardly by means of magazines like Rolling Stone, Musik Express, Wire or Spex.
I had missed LHASA’s first Swiss gig at the Paléo Festival in July 1998 but Benedetto Vigne wrote an enthusiastic review in the daily Tages Anzeiger.
The second performance on March 6, 2004 took place in the small Genevan Casino Théâtre. Shortly before I became acquainted with the musician Reesli Burri who happened to be employed by a coach company. Ere long, the message in one of the next Rec Rec Shop mass mails therefore read: ‘There is still a small chance for a gig in German-speaking Switzerland, other than that Rec Rec Shop in conjunction with travel agency Zugvogel Reisen and Reesli Burri at the wheel organises a coach trip for 35 to 50 persons from Zurich to Geneva and back for CHF 40.- each’. It didn’t come to that because the call-up was not organised professionally enough. Instead, I strained the nerves of my girl friend Maria whilst, without knowing the exact address, placing an order in English to the poor taxi driver to drive us to LHASA’s performance location. Futhermore, the reservation from Warner Brothers didn’t get through to the organizer, so that we had to display all our Zurich charm to gain admission all the same. I didn’t make any notes about the concert but both of us were spellbound. Still, LHASA came to Switzerland twice more in 2004: in July once again to the Paléo Festival, and on November 10 to Zurich (Kaufleuten) at last. After that, she also played the ‘Blue Balls Festival’ in Lucerne in July 2005. Both performances have intensified my fondness for LHASA.
With her three albums as an intense trilogy, LHASA left us a legacy, The Living Road (2003) is meant to be a link between La Llorona (1997) and Lhasa (2009), also the linguistic transition from Spanish to English. I recommend a closer examination of Lhasa, regrettably her last album (a planned tribute album with songs by Victor Jara and Violeta Parra remains unrealised, but pointing at her political awareness). Here’s a recommendation for LHASA beginners - her first single:
Side A: Love Came Here
A brilliant slow motion stunner, to be listened to at high volume, there is no similar song by LHASA!
Side B: Fool's Gold
A bittersweet farewell ballad to a bygone lover in the Americana style.
Don't keep in touch, I don't miss you much
Except sometimes early in the morning
Did you ever believe the lies that you told
Did you earn the fool's gold that you gave me
LHASA, Fool's Gold 2009
Furthermore, for those fans seeking consolation I recommend a visit to her website. Absolutely worth watching and liberating from excessive grief: the short-haired LHASA on Easter Saturday April 11, 2009 in front of an intimate audience in a private loft in Montreal, filmed off-beat. This is the way I want to remember LHASA. Not only was I always fascinated by her impish smile, at the wrong start of track three Love Came Here the singer, whom we won’t ever forget, gets the giggles… (Written just after the death of Lhasa, January 2010)
on 8 October 2010
I am a huge fan of Lhasa's and her previous two albums affected me deeply when I found them. Their music and meaning are somehow immaculate yet gritty and real and honest. The lyrics of each album resonated with eras of my life. The live show I caught in 2005 was sublime and joyful. I was genuinely impressed and inspired by the way she lived her life, too.
This, Lhasa's final album, is much less produced than her previous two. She's playing with folks from the Montreal scene and seems to be letting her hair down. It is much more casual. It feels like it should be the tapes that came _before_ her earlier material, not after. I know she grew up partly singing in venues in Montreal and this could have been from then, when her skill was less developed.
And, to be perfectly honest, it didn't grab me. I listened to it once or twice and then put it aside. Thus I can only share an impression which came from one attentive listen months ago, instead of from a close relationship with this album.
Lhasa was, like Ani Difranco has been and is, a soulful, honest poet sharing her experience and evolving vision of life. I feel rapport and connection with these women, both intellectually and emotionally, as in "we are both denizens of this massive scary beautiful world". Ani Difranco's life philosophy has matured over her career (compare her early reputation for being an angry feminist with her song "not angry anymore", and then the even more reflective yet still fluid work in recent years). In the same way, Lhasa matured and developed her perspective in the seven years between her first and second albums. You could tell she was a wiser person.
Unfortunately, I didn't feel an evolution here. As I recall, the unhappy songs on this album felt like they were in the voice of less powerful, less wise, less experienced person still trapped in cold small situations. Where was the lesson of the pajaro that woke you from the abyss once before? Other songs seemed to be insubstantial (a remarkable thing to say about Lhasa). The lyrics seemed to carry less weight and meaning. I didn't feel the personal investment.
I'm sorry if you're disappointed to read this. As I read my last paragraph I think about a song on The Living Road. The lyrics went "I made a small small song, I sang it all night long. How could you hate such a small song?" And I feel a little ashamed. I was disappointed by this album partly because I had such high and desperate hopes. I wanted it to fill my life like her earlier work did, because I knew there would be no more, since cancer cut her life short.
I will at some point give it another chance. These are perhaps small songs, and should be recognised and maybe even loved for that. I don't want you to necessarily be put off by reading my review. You may love this. When The Living Road came out, a friend warned me, "It's not like her earlier one," clearly suggesting she was disappointed. But I listened to it myself and disagreed. Likewise, after reading my review, you may find that you really love this album, I don't know.
But be ready to accept that perhaps this isn't as expansive and majestic as her earlier work.