Lala Lala Prove Uncompromising On Confident ‘I Want The Door To Open’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

After hearing The Lamb, Lala Lala’s 2018 breakout, it was hard to imagine what Lillie West would do next. That album was an effectively straightforward, scaled-back, indie rock record, one that could have been seriously hampered by here cliched indie vocals. Instead, West delivered on the promises of her debut, presenting a string of hyper-melodic, sweetly written tracks that deserved their bedroom intimacy instead of pining for it. But where would Lala Lala go next? It was clear that West’s sound, while charming, was undoubtedly a restraint, albeit one that attracted a percentage of her audience all on its own. West, to her credit, pushed her sound to its natural excess, finding an entirely new world of vulnerability on I Want The Door To Open

In 2011, Justin Vernon made very similar waves when his album Bon Iver exploded on to critical best-of’s. Bon Iver had been a singular, hushed cabin folk project, that seemingly grew overnight into a lush, operatic demonstration of prowess. Vernon, like West, had a knack for melody, one that gave him the opportunity and confidence to leave his ego unchecked. On I Want The Door To Open, West owes a lot to Vernon – whether it be her overdubbed vocals, synthesized horn tootles, or roadmap to sonic expression – but even despite all the comparisons, the albums works only because it has West at the helm. 

The trick here is that West’s instrumentation remains subservient to her melody. Her introspective bashfulness is not gone, she still sounds unsure of herself and what’s happening to her, but she is never undercut by the confidence of her experimentations, instead she builds her lyrics around her audience and her collaborators. Each track in turn feels universal, whether it be built around Nnamdi and Meg Duffy or sung by Ben Gibbard and Kara Jackson, West acts much like Vernon did, conducting herself and those around her to create something greater that she could on her own. I Want The Door To Open stands in stark contrast to The Lamb, setting opposing goals and aiming for a different audience, but both remain uncompromising visions of West, a songwriter whose proven on top of everything else, her inventiveness.

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