Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Helena Deland – Lylz

The high scores keep rolling in, including on this selection from Drew…


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[7.33]

Drew Haskins: Over the past few months, I’ve found myself drawn to the gentle, contemplative soundscapes of Helena Deland’s Someone New. Her voice has a Beth Gibbons-esque power to convey strength through murmuring, and it has been a soothing balm during these extremely trying times. The spellbinding “Lylz” is my favorite song on the album, reframing the tale of sister pianists Nadia and Lili Boulanger as a modern paragon of female friendship. It’s a beautiful relationship that ends in pyrrhic victory and legacy: “You’ll be famous for burning / and I’ll be known for my taste in choosing.”
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Rachel Saywitz: This dreamy, gorgeous ode to friendship and sisterhood came about when Deland heard the story of the Boulanger sisters and how Nadia spent years after Lil died promoting her music and legacy. Deland alludes that she and her friend Lylz have made the same promise to each other, but I’m more struck by the other activities mentioned in Deland’s lyrics, like practicing driving and gossiping while making face masks — actions that are simple but intimate when in a caring friend’s presence. 
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Samson Savill de Jong: Legacy is a weird thing. We like to think that “great works” that’ve been handed to us from history have survived because they have inherent quality, and that the stuff we love now will always be there. But most of the time stuff only survives because one person happens to be obsessive enough to preserve it (see Van Gogh’s brother, Shakespeare’s folio or any number of weird TV shows on YouTube that one guy recorded on their VCR and kept for 30 years). And at least with these examples, there’s something physical to preserve, rather than just the idea of who a person was. So what do we leave behind, and how do we know anybody will remember it? Lylz references Lili Boulanger and her sister’s efforts to preserve her work, but it’s really about the impact people make on each other, and trying to feel immortal in defiance of the inevitability of being forgotten. I don’t think it quite finishes its thoughts or pushes its ideas far enough though, at the moment it’s gesturing at the things I’ve mentioned without really making any strong points about them. Interesting to think about, but less so to actually listen to.
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Iain Mew: It’s got a groove to ease down and wallow in, and she does just that. The shock of being pushed suddenly out of it at the end makes for the most striking moment, but even when it passes by in a haze it works. 
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Katherine St Asaph: Perfectly competent Suzanne Vega-inflected indie-pop (in the older sense, not the modern landfill sense), at that quality level where it’s not whether the song’s good or bad, rather whether it grabs you or doesn’t yet. Some more time with “Lylz,” and perhaps it might.
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Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The lyrics fail the music — the energies of loss and creativity are apparent in Deland’s arrangement, with its churning guitars and floating woodwinds interchanging, but the lyrics feel like they can’t decide between whether they want to be direct or obscure. Writing someone else’s story in song is always tricky, and Deland manages to get halfway there without finding the right balance.
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Nortey Dowuona: Lilting guitar and hovering synths watch from across the hallway until Helena walks between them, a bass strumming and leading them after each other, with a blanket being wrapped around the guitar by the synth. Helena and the bass chat while the guitar and synths wait for the newly wet drums to catch up and start talking off their ears about Heidegger as echoes of Helena watch from the ceiling, shaking their heads. The guitar and synths have become to entranced with each other to notice the empty void.
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Vikram Joseph: Have you ever had a dream in which you’ve done something platonic but unexpectedly intense — like going abroad, or spending an entire day together — with someone you barely know in your waking hours? “Lylz” is a strange, compelling song which distils this feeling with precision — disorientating and anaemic like a dreamscape, with low-end guitar lines thick and furry with reverb, claustrophobic but comforting. It’s an escape fantasy with frayed edges and hallucinatory corners, in which Deland makes the sort of promises to her friend that children make to each other in books, but tinged with a very adult nihilism about the times that we live in (“It’s all smoke and mirrors / the time has come for us to vanish / burn the bridge to this world”). In this, it reminds me of two things: the wonderful “It’s The End Of The F***ing World”, and a British Sea Power b-side about a troubled teenager and his imaginary friend that I hadn’t thought about in years. When you wake up from a dream like this, there’s usually a deep ache of longing for something you’ve never had; when “Lylz” cuts out abruptly after three minutes I’m left with the same.
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John S. Quinn-Puerta: There are two main percussive patterns in this song — a thump, and a jingle. It’s hard to tell if they’re drum machines, live percussion, or samples, but I find that the ambiguity forces me to spend time considering the way they interplay under Deland’s vocals. The body of the song is so different from the light strum and ethereal, Mellotron-esque synths of the intro. The bass provides the bulk of the main riff, precise underneath Deland’s legato lyrics. The lean into accidentals just adds an otherworldliness to this meditation on… I’m not sure, exactly. This could be friendship, sisterhood, romantic love, or just plain old isolation. But Deland clearly misses the titular Lylz, to the point that it feels like it’s consuming her. The abrupt end almost demands that you go back and listen again, to make sure you heard it right the first time. To me, it comments on the abruptness with which people leave our lives. To Deland, perhaps the song was not yet over. But to Lylz, it was time.
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