‘Symphonic cacophony’ is the expression that came to mind when listening to Lila Blue’s latest album, Leave Me Be. In a magnificent jumble of sounds ranging from trumpet blows and synth pads to broken glass and grainy voicemails, Leave Me Be revels in its offbeat theatricality.
Constantly teetering on the edge of chaos, the sonic world of the album mirrors the psychological world of the artist. Twenty year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Lila Blue, recorded the album when she was only eighteen years old, fresh out of a breakup with her first love. The collection of songs offer an impressive range of perspectives exploring intimacy and the vacillations between stability and disarray that comes with it.
Not for the weak of heart, Leave Me Be delves into a nightmarish realm that feels reminiscent of Macbeth’s “Weird Sister” scenes. “Double, double, toil and trouble,” I found myself muttering as Blue stirs up a pot of toes, teeth, tongues, insect wings, brittle bones, hurricanes, and lukewarm soup. Equally enthralling and jarring, Blue doesn’t just sing; she howls, unleashing guttural screams, and shatters glass, only to sweep up the pieces afterwards. What we get is not just an album. It’s an avant-garde performance.
Something I particularly liked were the snippets of films and conversations that Blue weaves throughout the album, creating a collage of sound effects and memories. The first track opens with a film recording that sets the tone: “Baby, baby can’t you see, that the reaper, the reaper is coming for me / Locked the windows, locked the doors / But in the morning, I ain’t gonna be here no more.” Throughout the album, Blue draws upon this haunting rhyme, and even in the lighter moments, it feels like there is something grim hiding behind the curtains.
Blue’s gift of storytelling shines in “toesteethtongue,” which paints a phantasmagoric portrait of a woman’s first experience of betrayal: “I found you braiding her hair / She was a pond with the calmest of stares / You told me she just made sense to you / But the difference was your tongue always tripped on her name.” Drawing upon bodily imagery, Blue speaks to her own visceral reaction to abandonment. Her analogies intermingle with her reality and she becomes both a body of water and a flame, a woman forsaken and a force of nature.
Blue has called Leave Me Be a “time capsule” for who she was but no longer is, and the imagery she uses throughout the album speaks nicely to this. Her unusual choice of metaphors are particularly interesting, for example: “I am a loose tooth in love with the gum / Rip me out before I rot us both.” In images like this, Blue paints a picture of a woman caught between adolescence and adulthood, a songwriter wrestling with the ghosts of her past and the hazy vision of who she could become.
In the cinematic experience of Leave Me Be, the quirky charm of Lila Blue’s vocals paired with experimental instrumentation feels reminiscent of Regina Spektor or Fiona Apple. She has a knack for storytelling to a point where the details in her lyrics have an almost synesthetic quality to them. With her bold honesty and penetrating lyrics, Lila Blue would be a hard act to follow.