Kyla La Grange

Ashes

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London-based songstress Kyla La Grange sends her debut record, Ashes, out into a pop scene saturated with big-voiced, guitar-wielding artists such as Florence + the Machine, Anna Calvi, and Bat for Lashes, each of whom seem to have found their place among the plethora of alternative acts. Ashes is a slight concoction of each of these artists’ work, sporting the mystical, pagan imagery that Florence Welch and Bat for Lashes use in abundance, the guitar expertise of Anna Calvi, and a soaring, strong vocal to rival them all. Her dramatic, gothic songwriting has been molded here by producer Brett Shaw (Eliza Doolittle, Ed Sheeran, the Twang) with an obvious leaning toward overblown stadium-sized drums and heavily layered guitars. Far too frequently, an obligatory “woah” or “ohhh” is thrown in between choruses and verses that become somewhat predictable, and the wonderful impact they make in opener “Walk Through Walls” is almost lost as the album progresses. La Grange's voice undoubtedly handles the less-than-subtle production values with ease; however, songs such as “Courage” become weighed down by the heavy use of reverb and thudding drums that neither bring the song to a satisfying climax nor allow her melodramatic songwriting to fully flourish. Elsewhere, tracks such as “Catalyst” and “Been Better” are allowed to breathe, which ultimately gives La Grange the opportunity to take command of each song with her dramatic delivery. “Vampire Smile” showcases the brooding, dark imagery that La Grange's lyrics portray so vividly and the acoustic guitars bring about a pleasant change from the album’s electric dominance. Toward the end, La Grange breaks from the mystical big-pop-chorused tales of woe and turns to the more experimental and bewitching track “You Let It Go.” With hypnotic, rolling beats and haunting overlapping vocals reminiscent of Kate Bush, it proves to be one of the more intriguing songs on the record. Although it’s easy to cite her contemporaries -- as well as heavy influences such as Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper -- La Grange still manages to create her own sound here and certainly draws her own picture of the music and performers that have inspired her.

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