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Liesl Graham: Chrysalis

April 28, 2008 – 11:42 by John

Opening track Be Real‘s sweeping, glitchy intro will put you on the back foot from the start, and it’s around now you’ll probably hear someone ask, ‘who’s this playing?’ Yep. Thanks to pop-rocking second album Chrysalis (2008, Loneroc), the artist you’ve heard about, read about and perhaps seen out and about seems to have finally spread her wings and fluttered upwards.

liesl-graham-chrysalis

The artwork may suggest an artist more pre-occupied with adolescent butterfly and bedroom diary imagery, but this ain’t cherry-pop for slumber parties: it’s melodic dance-rock; the kind you may hear at the end of the end of the movie, just as the hero grabs the girl and embraces her, thoroughly re-inforcing gender stereotypes and getting some action at the same time. Aaah, Hollywood.

Like that weird patch of fuzz at the small of my back, Go Home has grown on me. In criticism, it’s very detached/emo. But in praise, the track oscillates between the soft padding of the crystal-clear beauty of the female voice and a simple hard-rocking, singalong hook.

Tender and cinematic, Little Bird is the timely, slow-tempo break to Chrysalis’s opening energy. Hold Me follows with a similarly acoustic sound (as does closing, unplugged Hare-Krishna-esque version of the track), and now you’re hugging the wall of the alternative music bar, getting some words in with the cute guy that ‘accidentally’ bumped you with his pool cue before handing it over to his mate in the middle of the game, saying, “I’m out.” Just so he could chat to you. Bless.

“Most thankfully, we have an ALBUM here, and not just a collection of tracks.”

There’s a lashing of background electronica on Chrysalis, but, for the most part, we’re talking about live drums and the type of stuff you could reproduce live quite easily, without the trappings of truckloads of hardware. Of course, there is the cheesy value of lines like, “I just wanna walk in the light of what I believe,” (Faithless Heart), but hey! It’s pop! And, most thankfully, we have an ALBUM here, and not just a collection of tracks. In other words, you know what you’re in for the moment you hit play.

Nothing experimental or weird about it. Seems like Graham’s reserved her place on the radio-friendly bandwagon. But as an independent female artist in South Africa, Graham’s niche sure has been carved out for her, thanks to the likes of trendsetters like Karma-Ann Swanepoel (and Henry Ate) and…uh, the aptly named Louise Carver. It’s pretty safe to say that with two sexy albums and the look (and hopefully feel) of Xena the Warrior Princess, Liesl Graham’s beyond ‘upcoming’.

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