Leila Adu, Dark Joan (2009)
I listen to Leila Adu because she’s great. And one of the main reasons she’s great – and therefore worth listening to – is because her songs are surprising. In fact her songs are surprises. You can’t predict the next line. So you get odd but brilliant phrases that stick out, “still got me teeth and my nine pairs of shoes”. Such phrases are sung with an implied exclamation mark. Dark Joan was Leila’s third album and the first available on vinyl – thanks to Frizz Records. It really is a solo album – given Leila’s voice and various keyboards are what fill this record. It was produced by Steve Albini. Leila is capable of beautiful melodies and odd, almost harmful dissonance. Her dark harmonies and twisted song formats might not be for everyone – and it seems no one is more aware of this than Adu. She sings, as punctuation between verses, “Oh, am I torturing you?” and you can imagine, the question mark more than just implied this time, that she’s directing it at some of the audience; mostly, I guess, at those that will never hear it. What’s wrong with a bit of torture? Music shouldn’t all be easy and carefree. It feels good to put a bit of work in too, as the listener. Here’s an album that will reward you – if you want to be rewarded. Here’s an album that in less than half an hour traces around plantation-blues and field hollers, cabaret-rock, noir-pop, folk, jazz, blues and (almost) anything else you want to hear in it. New Zealand didn’t know what it had.
Sample Track: Dark Joan
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