ALBUM: Mirrors the Sky
ARTIST: Lyla Foy
As a musician, Lyla Foy has always had an air of mystery. Before she chose to record under her own name, she adopted the name WALL to modestly release her music under. Now that she’s dropped the moniker, the London-based Sub Pop signee transfers that air of mystery to her debut record Mirrors the Sky, a dynamic yet intimate electro-pop masterpiece that showcases her strengths in melody and musical arrangements. But underneath the music is a big heart that drives these songs forward. Her consistently smooth voice is often the central binding element in this output of instrumentally varied arrangements, firmly anchoring the songs in a special emotional space that’s all her own and yet immediately accessible. The sheer honesty in her words and music make this album one of the most refreshing debuts of the year.
The album starts off on a very somber note with “Honeymoon.” The tempo is so slow that it feels as if time is moving through maple syrup. Her sultry vocals barely piercing through the minimalistic electronic atmosphere serve to reel you into her sonic dream world. In fact, the record as a whole captures this dream-like quality as if pressing play on the record opens a little box of wonders that completely encapsulates the listener in a lush pillow of sound. Understandably, it’s one that sounds the best on a good sound system turned all the way up to hear every little sonic nuance that she throws in and embrace every climax. And with an impressive vocal range like her’s, there are many.
Foy is especially great at musical builds. Her songs find a lot of strength in the succession of sonic layers that play off of each other in a pleasantly compatible way, utilizing a mix of synthesized and organic elements. Immediately following the compelling but ultimately one-note album opener, “I Only” starts off with a simple beat but evolves beautifully with the systematic addition of keyboard flourishes that build up the song to a refreshing high. In “Someday,” the penultimate track of the record, a somber mood pierced with minimalist guitar backing manages to keep its musical subtlety yet build to a cathartic point with the well-timed addition of a backing beat and other guitar textures. It reaches a sublime musical high similar to one by a High Violet-era National—a cacophony of pleasant sounds in an otherwise mellow environment. Foy’s arrangements show her talent in mixing an array of diverse sounds often not heard in the same context to achieve musical and emotional clarity sought out by many.
Foy’s music is a beautiful thing, but her voice is something else. It’s simple and sweet without the standard bells and whistles, yet she manages to use it as one of her most dynamic instruments. Her vocal range is impressively wide and she uses this to craft the most soaring of melodies. This is especially true on “Easy,” where her somber and eerie vocals in the verse are immediately uplifted by a quick jump to her falsetto in the chorus. She uses it as a powerful emotional tool, much like Lykke Li in her most recent record especially. The only downside to her vocal abilities is that her lush vocal delivery, often buried in a sea of reverb, makes it hard to understand her lyrics. Her hushed tone creates a very intimate mood, but many of her words are lost in the process. A great outcome of this is that it causes you to pay attention even harder to the songs. Luckily, her words become less obscured as the record goes on.
The subject matter of her lyrics seems to revolve around a wedding, and the past and present emotions surrounding that. She seems to be struggling with some inner demons, but tries to be optimistic about the future. The opening track references a honeymoon, where she remarks that she “gave up on being down.” At times, it feels like she’s talking to her significant other, like in “Rumour,” where she urges them to “take this ring from my finger [and] see how it mirrors the sky.” By the end of the record, she’s reached some peace with herself, as she seems to promise to herself, “When it begins to be spring, I hope we’ll keep no secrets to ourselves.” The emotional narrative that unfolds is both personal and greatly relatable.
In a growing landscape of electronically-enhanced music, it’s sometimes hard to move past the idea that electronic music can show sparks of humanity. But there are many exceptions, especially recently, disproving this standard. Sylvan Esso’s debut is a great example of this, and of course we move back to Lyla Foy. Her unique brand of electro-pop on this record shows that it’s possible for electronically punctuated music to possess undeniable warmth. – Hailey Simpson
“Memory, don’t fail me now/Raise a candle to that night”