Few and far between are pop singer-songwriters whose grace of form and narrative authority are as equally engaging as any one of their compositions. Stevie Nicks, Kate Tucker and Lana Del Rey immediately come to mind as cases in point, and while all three are distinctly recognizable influences on Burlington-based artist Lainee (Melanie Lynn Alexander), none quite match exactly to the emblematic impression she makes on her debut EP for Maisonneuve Music, Rally The Troops.
Represented here are a half album’s worth of songs following visceral themes of isolation, removed disposition and an almost telescopic objectivity that, as detached as that might seem in concept, actually serve to move the listener intimately closer to these five, clearly salient, matters of the artist’s heart.
“Song writing is an interesting process for me,” Lainee discloses of her approach, “because there are countless great songs out there influenced by love and relationships, but my material tends to be formed more by concepts of nature and spirituality, equality struggles and hope – and the lyrics and melody often come to me randomly, and at different times.”
By this context, the dynamic and stirring opening track “Towards The Sun” is given shade and model beyond what might be recognized at first listen. With its aural and delicate, alternating guitar refrain, expertly layered over a sort of subdued dub percussion, the song characterizes by abstraction one person’s perceived indifference to hope garnering admiration from another. You walk through summer and you walk through the fall, the artist sings from a decidedly clever second person perspective, did you know you’re the one, the only one? It’s a non-linear allegory, assembled in verses that build in fervour towards a jouncing chorus that comes on like a cataclysm and resonates in absolution.
Each subsequent track on Rally The Troops only further Lainee’s penchant for songs gilded in unconventional frames of reference. The ethereal, piano driven “Crowded Shore” is ignited by vocals that increase in cadence and resounding percussion, as the artist sings of the confusion and emptiness in the search for belonging, for placement within one’s self. Lainee’s latent messages are penned with careful design on this collection, so whether she speaks of a person, a notion, an ideology or a release from something – is entirely open to interpretation.
That said, Rally The Troops, right from the start, dashes any misconception of Lainee’s music being your garden variety alt-pop; seeking any form of standard issue simplicity in it will leave you challenged. She deals in the mystery of the psyche, the deliberate state of yearning, and ultimately close to nothing that could be straightforwardly interpreted. Still, and to no small accomplishment, Lainee manages to craft enticing and intricate little puzzle boxes here that are as much exquisite stream-of-consciousness dream pop, as they are a feast for the famined thinker.