Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shadows Lie - Echoes

Shadows Lie pulses out of the New York underground with rare authority and sound on their debut album Echoes. Kira Leigh, her multi-octave range used in full service of the powerful and haunting music, draws us in, wrapping us in a bittersweet cocoon of rage and lust.

The opening track, "Dead End," delivers with power and punch the band’s strengths: Kira’s vocals start in one direction, before the band brings the hammer, CT Tamura on bass, Frank Grullen on guitar, and Marco Britti on drums. Kira lays down the line: I should turn the blade from me to you/punish you for all the things you do/twist the knife and/watch you lose your mind. Mixing electronic elements, Leigh and Tamura are smart enough to know when to pull back, bits of Portishead swirling around, but they know that the lull before the storm only makes the fury that much worse. Kira’s howl is an animal’s rage, sweet taffy around an anvil, as they break down one final time, I’ll skin myself alive, an army of Kira’s sing as the band makes good that threat. Staind only wished that they kicked ass as much this first 4 minutes. (I have been corrected recently: Leigh and Temura are responsible for all the sounds on this album. Grullen and Britti are in the live band and should be on the next CD. Please read the rest of the review with this in mind! - Iguana 2/27/09)

"Ghost" pulls it all back into focus. The influences are here, but none quoted so much that you find yourself thinking you know where it comes from. Your soul is lost/and I pay the cost/ no longer here/I disappear Kira sings, the haunting quality of her voice feels like Tori Amos at her most plaintive, yet you wonder whether the loss is yours or hers.

The production on Echoes is superb. Kira sounds like the long lost Kirsty Thirsk of Rose Chronicles on Nettwork’s stable back in the early ‘90’s. Both vocalists are not afraid, or are smart enough, to realize that their main instrument can do more than just sing lyrics. This record is rife with more textural touches than most singers put into a career: sighs and gasps and bits of harmony that add dimensions of interest to music upon repeated playings. But to put it bluntly, Kira sings the fuck out of the third track, Echoes, with a repeating electronica rhythm and shimmering acoustic guitar for accompaniment. There is little need for studio trickery when you have someone with pipes.

"Blank," the fourth track, takes us back to the flight path from "Dead End," the band laying down a sound on the chorus that wouldn’t be amiss somewhere back in Alice in Chain’s catalog is anyone home/don’t leave me alone here/with your blank stare/ I feel a light on/where have you gone/with your blank stare. Layne Staley would nod in approval to the minor key on the acoustic guitar after the break.

Not to belabor the point, but not only do Shadows Lie know how to write a song, they know how to arrange it. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve listened to songwriter’s throw a great chorus away on a terrible song, or, Eddie Money-style, take the one catchy part of a song and run it into the ground like a mob victim behind a town car. With excellent production and interesting arrangement, Shadows Lie is one of those bands that make melding to electronic, the acoustic and the Zep seem seamless and obvious. Co-founder CT Temura, who also covers guitars, bass and writing gets props here.

"Overwhelmed" is maybe the most lightweight of the songs on the CD, and also the most radio ready, with a chorus that you’ll singing on the way out of the club, not realizing that you haven’t heard a hundred times already. While "Keep Falling Down" (track 5) by the band is a solid song, the acoustic version tucked back on track 15 is a winner, allowing us to hear Kira’s voice without that harmony and the production fairy dust. I’ll program that in place to simply enjoy beauty of the performance. There’s a sheer joy in hearing people who can really sing, sing.

"Invited," is the rarity, a truly guitar riff rocker that still can’t help but rock out and stop on a dime, inviting Kira to deliver a snotty breakdown with a sneer in her voice before kicking back into the chorus. Marco Britti delivering a tempo and timing performance that speaks of some serious skills. In sharp contrast is "Zoe’s Eyes," a haunting ballad that retains the shimmering Portishead style background, but with a blues delivery with more emotion that recalls Alison Moyet in places. This may be the song that I most want to hear live for all of my love of "Dead End" or "Blank."

The rapidfire delivery of the vocals on "Everything" give the song its breathless energy, even with the slow tempo of the drums, the keyboards giving a moving counterpoint melody under the chorus, everything in motion, swirling, a veritable army of Kiras in chorus around your headphones. 12 tracks into the CD and the band hasn’t run out of ideas. Remember, you entered their world by your choice, and you realize 12 songs in that you've pretty much been mesmerized by song after song. Its rare, it seems, to lose yourself in a singular vision. I recall listening to Little Earthquakes so many times that when it ends, you didn't realize that you'd been in Tori's world for the last 45 minutes without a break. With "Dead End," we walked into this world, and Leigh and Temura have yet to let up.

If there is any complaint that I have, its that I’d love to hear the guitars that much rawer, even though very little of the fury of performance on the rockers is lost in the production. And this is first class production. There is depth of sound and performance here that can’t be gotten in your bedroom or mom’s garage. This is a professional band showing up with a debut that sounds inevitable in its performance and sound. I don't recall hearing anything this accomplished or this interesting in all my drunken nights at the Continental or the Wetland back in the day. They’re number one on my list of bands that I’ve got to see when I’m back in NYC.

- the fearless rock iguana

Check them out of MySpace:


Barbara(aka Layla) said...


I used to have a reminder pop - I am going to go do that right how. Or is today Wednesday? Nope, I think I missed the show :(

Mikey said...


This is that band that Iguana was talking about a week or two ago on your radio show. These guys are fantastic - they have another fan.


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