After releasing a solo album in 2011, Mellow Drama, that was folk, pop, country, and girl group-influenced and had a cheerfully bouncy sound, former Lillix member Louise Burns took a drastic left turn on her second album. Released in 2013, The Midnight Mass is a much more dramatic album that is more produced-sounding and heavily influenced by the synth pop of the 1980s. Working with Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, Burns and the producer of her previous album, Colin Stewart, create a moody late-night feel that wraps around the listener like a chilly fog. Blanketed by reverb, synths, and drum machines, Burns' rich vocals sound haunted by lost love, sadness, and darkness throughout, even when she has a very hooky chorus to sing, and most of them are. Her songs are sad, it's true, but not the kind of sad that eschews hooks. Tracks like the chilly album opener "Emerald's Shatter," the almost peppy Jesus and Mary Chain-influenced "Don't Like Sunny Days," and the very Cure-sounding "Jasper" all deliver solid pop thrills. Even the noisy cover of the ever bleak Gun Club's "Mother of Earth" has some bite thanks to the squalling guitars and the Suicide-like electronic pulse. Not only on that song, but all through the album, Burns does a fine job of writing lots of different kind of songs -- from rampaging noise rockers ("The Artist") to creeping nocturnal ballads ("Heaven") that sound like Mazzy Star and the Cocteau Twins collaborating -- and the musicians and producers work hard to make everything sound amazingly good as they combine sounds and mash together genres. It's a true team effort guided by Burns' impressive voice and powerful songs, and anchored by heavy emotions and some real depth. Hopefully people who only remember her as a bass-toting Lillix member will give her a chance. The Midnight Mass proves she has become the kind of artist worth following as she shifts and grows.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra