Kyla La Grange at Rough Trade East
Oh look, another pretty girl with a vaguely husky voice. Singing about how love is hard. And sometimes swearing and wearing something trendy and expensive on Brick Lane. On first impression it would seem Kyla La Grange is not unique and we could be stony-faced and cynical and agree with the NME’s assessment that she is simply dishing up another serving of “studio gunk”. However, what actually happened at Rough Trade East was the opposite – we danced a little bit and then even bought the record.
On record, tracks such as Walk Through Walls come across as excessively commercial, pre-packaged soundtracks for the next Twilight-esque teen hit. However, played live it is subtly stripped down versions of admittedly melodramatic tracks that highlight the genuine sincerity in Kyla La Grange’s voice and serve to break down the inevitable Florence comparisons. Tracks such as Been Better skim the peripheries of cheesy Americana rock, but somehow create a pleasantly weird inversion of the genre, combining big building riffs and heavy-handed beats with a voice that veers between Bjork and Delores O’Riordan (of The Cranberries, for anyone who doesn’t remember the early 90s). Every track is pop-rock that has managed to walk the tightrope between commercialism and prostituting its own talent, apparently not everything sellable needs to be diluted to the point of flavourlessness.
The emotive, dramatic, end-of-the-world, angst of tracks like Heavy Stone and Walk Through Walls translates live into a contagious energy. Yes, Kyla La Grange is melodramatic. Something felt a little bit silly about her performance at Rough Trade East: adolescent almost, rather like a teenager slamming their bedroom door. But sometimes things in life make us feel like that. Anyone who has ever had their heart broken has probably done something completely melodramatic and embarrassing. But in the heat of the moment making a scene seems totally justified. Kyla La Grange definitely makes a scene. The difference is, she’s happy to go “Hey, I felt strongly about something, I wanted to have a little shout about it. Sorry cool kids.”
Kyla La Grange will probably be slated continually, because it’s true East London is crawling with cute female singer-songwriters. If only she were ugly, everybody would love her. Live, she proves a genuine and heartfelt force, far more than a cold-hearted over-produced money-spinner. Put away your “I’m-too-trendy-for-this” cynicism for a minute and you might be surprised.
Kyla La Grange’s debut album Ashes is out now.
Listen to Heavy Stone from the album here: