You must have heard these lyrics “I’m just a little bit caught in the middle. Life is a maze and love is a riddle” and wondered what song it was and which singer it came from. Yes, the title is “The Show” and the girl with the gentle voice is Australian singer Lenka. It is the lead single from her self-titled debut album.
In Sydney, Lenka went on to become a teen actress who trained with Cate Blanchett, thereafter landing leading roles on stage, television and in indie films, a self-described “punk-ass art school student” and vocalist/keyboardist for acclaimed indie electronic/ambient outfit Decoder Ring. Now she has flung herself into two new worlds simultaneously: she’s moved to California and become a solo artist. But no matter where she ventures, those early memories follow. Others may struggle to get in touch with their inner child; Lenka never lost hers.
Her sinuous vocals drape around her lyrics with the ease of a child hanging onto its mother’s legs…or of a serpent wrapping itself around the neck of its prey. Whether channeling our long-repressed terrors (“Trouble Is A Friend”) or long-lost innocence (“We Will Not Grow Old”), her music evokes primal emotions, unblemished by pretense or cynicism – and unashamed of cracking a smile occasionally.
“It’s a mood-enhancer,” she says of her record and mood enhancing is something she’s a bit of an expert at, having provided the “strangely haunting” (Rolling Stone) vocals for Decoder Ring’s evocative soundscapes over the course of two albums. “I don’t like it when people are depressed. I want to cheer them up,” she says, giving Trouble a swift kick in the ass.
Although the album is rife with broken romances (“Wrote Me Out”), self-loathing (“Anything I’m Not”), difficult relationships (“Dangerous & Sweet,” with – stranger still – Howie Day on guest vocals) and long distance longing (“Skipalong”), it is nevertheless uplifting.
In characteristic Lenka fashion, lead single “The Show” takes a dour premise – that life is a show, and sometimes a pretty bad one at that – and delivers it with unexpected aplomb, erupting into a bold, brassy closing refrain of “I want my money back!”
“Don’t Let Me Fall,” with strings conducted by composer/arranger David Campbell (otherwise known as Beck’s father), began as a neurotic love song inspired by the work of filmmaker/performance artist/author Miranda July (Me And You and Everyone We Know), but evolved into an exquisitely soothing song that borders on lullaby. Producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Jay Z) aided Lenka in this bit of alchemy, arranging for the session to take place in one of the historic Capitol Records studios.
“Lenka” is now out in CDs under Sony Music.