Album Review: Ada Lea – what we say in private

Montreal musician Ada Lea‘s debut is a diverse and intense indie rock record, and though it began as a concept album, it evolved over the course of its production into a vivid collection of pop-rock tracks. Out Friday, July 19, on Saddle Creekwhat we say in private is a stunningly cathartic debut for Ada Lea, featuring resonant synth melodies, crooning vocals and just a hint of dissonance.

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 4.29.52 PM.jpgwhat we say in private began as a concept album with two different sides, one about the sun and one about the moon, according to Saddle Creek. Though the record eventually morphed into an assortment of chaotic pop-rock songs, elements of that origin are still evident in its shifts between light and dark: at times, distorted guitar riffs create a grungy feel, and at others, the sound is simpler and highlights softly-crooning vocals.

“mercury” and “the dancer” highlight this contrast best; the former opens the record with driving percussion, husky vocals and dark, pulsing synth. The increasingly pulsing layers and the shifts between fast-paced and languid are dramatic, yet elements of the track are surprisingly pretty: the guitar picking melody is catchy, and lilting vocals are sweet. “the dancer,” on the other hand, is a simpler seventh track tinged with sadness (“Some days, I feel like dancing/But some days, I don’t”). It’s lighter and somewhat quieter, and though the drumbeat still drives the song, the instrumentation is sparse and the track feels less overpowering.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this record, though, is musician Alexandra Levy’s use of dissonance. The album did result from the chaos and catharsis of the ending of an important romantic relationship, after all, and that heartbreak is evident in the intensity and cacophony that arise throughout.

On “for real now (not pretend),” this is especially apparent, almost becoming overwhelming: Levy’s deep, sweet vocals are accompanied by a steady guitar picking at first, but an additional jewel-toned melody breeds dissonance that builds and then collapses just before Levy, backed by the original straightforward guitar, croons, “I heard you wanna die
/Be confetti floating in the sky.”

Photo by Bao Ngo.

what we say in private is an intense yet stunning debut album, and its incredibly personal lyrics and sound are exhausting in the best kind of way. The record promises good things to come from Ada Lea, but for those who can’t wait, check out her ample list of tour dates and listen to what we say in private now.

what we say in private is available on all streaming platforms, but fans can stream and purchase the record via Bandcamp below.

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