Originally posted on The Alternative Soundtrack
Låpsley released her first album, Long Way Home, on Friday 4th March.
She also happened to be performing in the city I live in, Bristol, two days later.
What seems like a isolated weekend of listening both in my bedroom and in a church-cum-concert venue(I'll get to it later), has actually been something I have been looking forward to since I first heard Station over a year ago. Why I was a fan then was because of the overriding serenity of the track. Damn, that song is zen. Every cutting sound which emerges from that repetitive backdrop, whether a clap or a vocal, hits the spot. It's minimalism in essence. It's like every good, landscape painting- however exciting the foreground, the background keeps you sane. And that is what Station is about as a song: refined layering, having as few layers as possible. But that's not a recurring theme in Long Way Home. Neither is it why I am a fan now.
Opinions first: I really like the album. Confessions second: I was shocked the first time I heard Operator, the fifth track of the album. I thought it was some 80's disco classic slipped in by accident. I did not like it at all, gimmicky phone soundset al. It unnerved me. But, what the hell?- I liked the album overall, I'd been looking forward to hearing this new material from the talented Holly Fletcher for a while- I'll keep it on repeat, no tracks skipped, for the next couple of days. And,almost inevitably, I warmed to it. It was not the only song on the album with more aggression than Station, Painter, and Falling Short, three of her earlier songs. Hurt Me, the second track, includes more emphasis on the vocals and Tell Me The Truth has some sharp, punchy chords. This album is, at times, transcendent and, at others, harsh, but only those two extremes. The effect of that is you are always fully aware of what you are listening to. If you wanted a soundtrack to your life, this will fall short of your expectations (as I nearly allowed it to) because this album demands to be listened to in the active sense of the word.
She sat, remarkably composed and alone on the stage for the only time, using just her voice and keyboard to engulf everyone with poignancy.
However, if I'm doing the whole confession thing properly, I will have to admit I still didn't understand Operator fully until I saw it performed live at The Trinity Centre, Bristol. To say the venue was unusual would be an understatement. It looked like a fully fledged church from the outside, more like a church hall inside, long and narrow, the audience failing to surpass the width of the stage. However, the acoustics echoed throughout, audible from the toilets, and the bass was a particular highlight, even during the non-performance playlist. I think I liked Operator by the gig, but, by god, I still didn't get it. But, when performed live, it lifted the generic, hipster crowd into something more than a head-bob (hypocrisy, I know, I'm your classic head-bobber.) A few people even danced. Then came that gimmicky phone noise. From behind me. And I looked at my flatmate, and he at me, and we chuckled. It was clever. Clever and funny. Which was totally what Låpsley was as a performer. Clever and funny. She made the audience laugh. Yet, at one point during the performance, she sat, remarkably composed and alone on the stage for the only time, using just her voice and keyboard to engulf everyone with poignancy. I was all over the place, but one thing was for sure: she was in control.Now, listening to the album after that performance, every decision makes so much more sense. That's partially why I have structured this piece how I have, showing the complimentary nature live performances and recorded music can have.
The album has two antithetical attitudes, mentioned earlier. My interpretation of this (always up for debate) is that it is about transition, but not going from phase to the next. The transitional effect is going from one state to the other to another,back to one of them, then to a new one, then back again, and back and forth, back and forth, etc. Because, in general, you do not grow as a person in a straight, upward trajectory. You vary in how you develop, and, occasionally, you go back on yourself. Either that, or Låpsley, potentially far less philosophical than I, was using her debut album as an excuse to splurge her raw songwriting and producing abilities and keep up the momentum of her career. (Also, sidenote, her live vocals were powerful and impressive as such. I especially appreciated the ingenuity of downpitching her voice using microphone effects to create the illusion of male-female duets. Hearing that cracked so many mysteries which had plagued me as I wondered who those voices belonged to.) Whether it is philosophy or pure music, the album is equally haunting and impressive, something with a rare mastery of genre, form, and variation in an industry which prioritisesindividual songs rather than full works.