Release Date: Mar 31, 2017
Record label: Arbutus Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
As the clanging keyboard chords that open 'The Road' ring out like sinister church bells, it's clear that Canadian composer and songwriter Lydia Ainsworth's second album is going to be something very special indeed. Following a spate of recent pop culture nods to a hip new activism-based kind of witchcraft - indie movie The Love Witch and Lana Del Rey's anti-Trump spell for starters - this seems to be the sound of lush electronic pop throwing its pointy hat into the ring. "Astral mirrors guide the fall /Let's go on and on and on once more," murmurs Ainsworth, oozing sensuality, strength and supernatural sass over dark, unctuous beats.
The spirit of Bush, in particular the experimental Side 2 of Hounds of Love, seems to run through Lydia Ainsworth 's second album, Darling Of The Afterglow. Whether it was an active influence on her part is not clear (though Ainsworth has cited Bush collaborator Peter Gabriel as an influence), but it's hard not to conjure the image of synapses firing as she listened to The Fifth Wave twist and turn. Where Lydia Ainsworth's debut, Right From Real, felt like a gloriously glitchy mash up of Holly Herndon and Julia Holter , here she tilts more towards that avant-pop space; appealingly radio-friendly but with pervading sense of weird.
Art-electropop specialist Lydia Ainsworth made an impression in 2014 with her carefully crafted, stylized debut, Right from Real. Drawing on a variety of influences and incorporating layered vocal samples, acoustic strings, and murky electronic beats, it earned the former film-scoring major comparisons to artists spanning Grimes and, especially vocally, Kate Bush. Following its lead, her follow-up, Darling of the Afterglow, seems to reach across the expanses with still bolder timbres and vocal performances.
Darling of the Afterglow, Lydia Ainsworth's powerful and self-assured followup to her 2014 full-length Right From Real, finds the Toronto musician pushing her already robust alto to new heights, and eschewing the strings-heavy sound of her debut in favour of something more synth-centric. Ainsworth absolutely oozes confidence here, particularly in the way she pushes her voice to the forefront: the verses of FKA twigs-esque opener "Afterglow" find her singing in two simultaneous octaves, while she bends her striking alto around a serpentine synth line on the glowing "Ricochet. " Over the synth-y thunderclaps of "The Road," Ainsworth layers three, sometimes more sets of vocals in order to build thick, ominous walls of gorgeous harmony.
With her 2014 debut Right From Real, Lydia Ainsworth established herself as a purveyor of futuristic synthpop with a parallel appreciation for baroque and even medieval music. She has a knack for weaving layered, multitracked vocal melodies that make her sound like a monstrous cyborg, yet it has often been the notes plucked from antiquity, and not the chilly electronics, that lend her music its austere and perplexing beauty. On her sophomore effort Darling of the Afterglow, Ainsworth hones a similar tension.
It's difficult to parse the myriad influences of Toronto-based composer Lydia Ainsworth . At the time of the release of her Juno-nominated 2014 debut Right From Real , she was as likely to pay tribute to the three-part harmonies of Bulgarian folk singers as she was to the Spice Girls . As if challenging herself to come up with an even more disparate set of touchstones to describe her new LP Darling of the Afterglow , Ainsworth offered up her most mystifying set of references yet, characterizing the album's lead single "The Road" as " a marriage of Enya and the Weeknd.