Album Review: Lyla Foy – Umi

Album Review: Lyla Foy – Umi

Lyla Foy’s vocals are definitely from another era or maybe even another world. Channeling voices like Alanis Morissette, Foy brings a tenderness to the way she sings that somehow reminds me of melted wax. It’s smooth and bright. Sometimes she’s got this little quiver in her voice that sounds like she’s just nervous enough to make her care that every last line is picture perfect. It’s endearing and drips through her subtle, understated pop album.

“Beginning it all again” is of course about a relationship. But sonically the song feels like a straightforward down-tempo pop song. It’s Foy’s vocals that steal the show. They are piercing and powerful, not like an arena rock singer, but like someone who can cut you down with their ability to wield emotion. It’s an excellent start to the album.

“Glow in the Dark” has a darker melody, slowly driving like something from David Gray or even early Coldplay. The rhythm puts me in the mind of a rocking chair or swing, going back and forth with a calm, windblown elasticity. The layered production behind her (keys, guitars, percussion) fill the track nicely with a sense of growth and development.

“River” is a lyrically complicated song. It finds a spot right in the core of your heart, with Foy’s quiver leaving just enough shake in your heart to be unsettling in a good way. It’s interesting that rivers can fulfill all sorts of metaphors in music; they can bring life or death, for example. Here, it seems (and I may be wrong on this) that Foy’s talking about a river that represents depth and totality of involvement. This relationship cannot be ignored.

“Right to Be” is an almost atmospheric song. The guitars rise above the vocals, even though the high soprano lead vocal at times soars over the backing instruments. But the guitars rise. They make the sound float higher and higher. It might be the most thoroughly alt rock feel on the whole album. “Tiger” might be my favorite for the confidently dark approach. The layered vocals and occasional minor chord turns make it feel mysterious. Yet the lyrics provide layers of metaphor, not the least of which being an intervening tiger that provides a complication for a relationship. It’s not crystal clear what it means, but the images that it conjures for me are enough to call it an effective dark track.

The final track is “He is lost.” It’s a genre-bending song with elements of what we might generically call a “singer songwriter” vibe or even “alt rock.” Enough with the categories – here’s what to like about it. The song drips with authenticity and crisp guitars. Foy’s peaceful vocals are the icing on a cake that is itself already pretty darn delicious.

This might not be the typical EarToTheGround fodder. It’s certainly not the kind of music I spin every day, but I can recognize talent and Foy certainly has that. For a final comparison, much of the album reminds me of the way I felt when I heard Johnny Cash’s cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” It’s dark and sometimes even a little painful. But it’s worth sharing in those feelings just to be there with an artist who can help us understand a little bit more clearly what it means to be alive.

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