- Lily James Roberts, The Brazen
(Little Hurricane Records, CD, digital)
Raise your hand if you've ever been a 17-year-old girl. I have! And I am all too aware of the consuming emotions that come with the territory. Some teenage girls funnel these emotions into sports, others into the visual arts, but Lily James Roberts has chosen to work out her feelings through songwriting. On September 24, the Monkton native released her debut album, The Brazen — a six-song EP that offers a window into Roberts' world.
If I had my druthers, I would have liked the album to kick off with the second track, "Apocalypse." Though darker than the actual opening track, "One Step," it is undoubtedly stronger and demands the listener's attention. It begins as an acoustic number featuring guitar and voice only, then it blasts off at the one-minute mark with fuzzy electric guitar and head-banging drums as Roberts sings about apocalyptic nights with a healthy dose of angst.
The third song, "Blue Melody," represents a dramatic shift from its preceding track — it's much more aligned with Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" than Paramore's "Misery Business." The title fits both the song's mood and lyrical content, with lines such as "I never meant to fall in love with you / I tried to tell myself again and again that it wasn't true / But there's something in your eyes that pulls me back to you." Roberts moves out of her low tones in the choruses, showcasing a sweet, soaring vocal timbre for the first time on the album. Luckily, Roberts continues the trend in the following track, "Love, Lily," in which we're treated to more airy vocals with an enchanting vibrato.
The title track, which closes the album, is probably the catchiest of the bunch. Roberts shoots the listener a warning in each refrain: "Don't fear the dark / You better fear the brazen." It's easy to imagine a music hall full of teenagers screaming this back as their brand-new anthem. The break in the bridge is a nice effect, giving the ear a few seconds to rest before a series of crunching power chords reintroduces the chorus.
The Brazen is a solid first release by a talented up-and-coming artist. Sonically, the album would have been well-served by a little more polish and better mixing. It's a shame that the production's poor quality sometimes detracts from the songwriting and performances. Hopefully, The Brazen is just one of many albums in Roberts' future, and the next will be a better-finished product.
Catch Roberts with backing band Enemy of the People on Saturday, October 23, at 8 p.m., at the Monkey House in Winooski. The Brazen is now streaming on Amazon Music and will be available worldwide through CD Baby in the near future.
Disclaimer: Seven Days staff play in Enemy of the People, and Lily James Roberts' father is a Seven Days associate publisher.