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these are smaller songs, says a fan
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.