Listed last year as one of “10 New Artists You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone, Californian teenage singer/songwriter Lena Fayre released her first full-length album, OKO, last August. It is an intense 11-song collection at times fraught with emotionally charged angst, and at other times hauntingly fragile. Simple melodic lines flow from her pen, sometimes blasting into passionate explosions, and Fayre has the vocal chops to make it all work.
Her songs are poems. You would have liked to have the printed lyrics in hand so that you could explicate as you listen, so you could ponder the implications of her metaphors. A song like the percussively wrenching “Gold Standard King” (where it is her beau that is the subject) raises questions about what she means by “gold standard.” On the other hand, when she says “I Am Not a Man” in the album’s featured single, the implications are more obvious, especially if you take into account some of the imagery in her official video—the bare-chested hunk pulling the strings on the puppet-like singer. Perhaps it’s not quite so good to be the man.
Fayre may be working the pop groove, but it is adventurous pop. In her bio, she calls it “deconstructed pop.” While I wouldn’t presume to define what she might mean by “deconstructed,” a term that has frustrated me from its origins in the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, I would venture that she sees what she is doing as something quite apart from run-of-the-mill pop music. If so, I would agree.
She takes pop lines and stretches them with the help of softly creative arrangements, adding instrumental variations such as horns to the pulsations of “Start a War,” where war is a metaphor for a breakup. There are also strings to “Ophelia,” to emphasize her Shakespearian fragility. She even adds a bit of rap to “Games,” as either a way of avoiding games and saying the “words you mean to say” or simply playing another game. Take your choice. It’s deconstruction after all.
“The Tiger’s Bride,” “Everybody’s In,” and “Every Man Is a Warrior” are all strong tunes, and if she assures us she’s not a man in the album’s opener, in its penultimate song she makes clear “I Am a Soul,” and ends asserting “Intimacy Is Me.” These are songs that paint a portrait of the artist as a young girl.
Propulsive rhythms, suggestive lyrics, and vocals that range from the ethereal to the explosive—Lena Fayre is a young artist with a creative vision. You may not need to know her, but you would do yourself a favor to meet her. And OKO is as good a place for that meeting as you could hope for.
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