Review Summary: A largely dark and brooding affair, from a woman faced with her own mortality.
Lhasa’s self-titled and final album before her death is a triumph. She asks us questions like “Is anything wrong? Oh love, is anything right? How will we know? Will time make us wise?” These questions are poignant given the fact that this album was produced and released during her 21 month battle with breast cancer, which she lost on January 1st of 2010.
I suspect that some serious introspection was going on during this time, given the very depressing feel of the compositions musically, though some lyrics appear to be subtly hopeful. The song “Rising” (which was actually the first song I ever heard by her, and subsequently hooked me) is a testament to this. She says she was “…caught in a storm and carried away… I was rising up, hitting the ground, and breaking…” How does this make sense, unless metaphorically, she was emotionally lower than the ground?
In “What Kind of Heart” Lhasa asks “What kind of heart would a blind man choose?” Lhasa’s deeply philosophical questions and contemplative lyrics abound through this album, as well as all of her releases. This is what makes her music extra special.
Track after track, Lhasa paints a lyrically bleak and realistic picture. This time, though, it’s all in English, which is a change of pace considering her first album was all Spanish, and her second album was trilingual, featuring Spanish, French, and English. I can only speculate that this was to attract a broader fan-base, but I could be wrong.
Musically, this album is quite a departure from previous releases. Gone is the heavily influenced Mexican style of previous outings, in favor of an old-time country meets folk meets 50’s ballads kind of feel. The production is clear yet the atmosphere is thick yet stark with lots of reverb, and I swear I can hear the subtle hiss of an 8-track. The instrumentation is less broad here, featuring mostly acoustic guitar and upright bass, with very little percussive elements.
Lhasa’s voice seems to be the most intense here. It’s as though she’s right in front and center, channeling her smoky and husky voice into the listener’s bones. This just may be her most emotive performance of three releases. This is not for the faint of heart. Lhasa’s self-titled album is a largely dark and brooding affair, from a woman faced with her own mortality.