Classical piano meets rock wisdom vocals
Dutch singer/songwriter Lavalu is a fascinating mash-up of two very specific genres. Her compositions are very, very classical and all piano focuses and based. However, her singing and vocals are straight out of the alt-pop world. The result is something that sounds like it wants to rock out vocally but then gives you a concerto instead. It’s pretty damn special.
Opening track “Waiting” is a perfect example. The piano rolls and spills over octaves and melodies as if your being treated to something from the 1800’s and then Lavalu’s voice kicks in with its pop-rock sensibilities and it takes you off guard. The two work really well together and the drama comes from the ivories and Lavalu’s voice then wraps itself around the main instrument. “Safe” moves slightly towards something more mainstream with some reverse reverb effects on the voice and lets the voice shine with an epic finale that twists her voice into an echoing synth that drenches the piano. Quirkier darker tracks like “Bare” and “Longest Dawn” play to piano production tricks, in particular, the latter that produces the piano as a vintage European sound which suits the quick waltzing style of the track. The closest artist I can think of that matches this kind of crossover is perhaps early Julia Marcell.
“Hide Me” is utterly beautiful in its pensive melancholy and how it evokes winter and Charlotte Martin undertones and offers a nice track of hope before the album spends much of its second half in a more hazy and cautious mood. “Milk”, “Ginger Night”, “Swaying” and “Honey” all prey on softer, meandering contemporary classical pieces that start off as a rumble and then slowly move into more dissonance and uneasy moods. They all do it slightly differently but its clear that Lavalu’s tone here is one of minimalist picture painting that creep under your skin. On first listen you don’t always click with them but I then found myself compelled to return and they grew upon each listen. Think Agnes Obel without strings and a bit more gloomy and you aren’t far off. The album itself closes with a short acapella piece “Too Much” rounding off a poised and restrained album that holds you in the palm of its hand whispers its messages to you.
Lavalu’s debut album Solitary High is a great introduction to her world of hushed anxiety and classical drama. I’d have perhaps liked a few more of the bombastic moments that occur early in the album to return and balance out the quieter second half but its clear Lavalu has hit gold with what she’s doing and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Recommended track: Safe
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