On her sophomore release, Hilarity And Hijinx Ensue, alternative rocker Kaleigh Ilia comes on like a turbocharged ‘72 Nova. Loud guitars and slamming drums aside, her powerful voice is our tour guide through 14 songs that groove with minimal fuss.
This album’s maturity amounts to the emotion being turned up, and effectively so, as Hilarity And Hijinx Ensue tells the tales of suburban despair, desperate escape, and desert salvation. The high octane rocker ‘The Trouble With Hello’ draws the listener in and by the time she sings the opening line “I know, you know, I know we got a problem” it’s clear Kaleigh’s keen on casting a spell. Inspired by the simplicity of nursery rhymes and playground lore this seventeen year-old from Los Angeles has mastered the art of writing a pop hook. ‘Hey, Hey Whatcha Say’ begins with a punchy kick drum groove and sing along chorus, so intense, it reaches out and grabs the listener by the throat.
Hilarity And Hijinx Ensue has a haunting, captivating sound at times and ‘Take A Long Look’ is downright hypnotic. Primal screams, vicious grooves, and snake charmer guitar lines provide the perfect canvas for her intoxicating melodies and lyrics such as “between the cracks in the floor, you’ll find the note you’ve been looking for.” And these are not the lyrics of an acoustic princess or pop diva. Kaleigh is a force of nature armed with a poison pen and with her words she paints us a vivid landscape. On the pyschobilly sounding “Tangled In Your Hair” we can imagine ourselves sitting right next to her in the Nova, as she drives through the desert for a secret rendezvous; “… and when we’re feeling boldly wicked, you’re tangled in my hair.”
She cranks up the angst with a healthy dose of punk on ‘Age of Discontent, Summer of Total Regret’ as she yells, “welcome to my age of discontent.” But don’t be fooled; anger gives way to despair. ‘What Am I Gonna Tell Violet’ is brilliant. As an opening wall of distorted organ leads us to an eerie vocal, she sings “Whiskey, bullets, and gasoline. Baby that’s all we need. To run from this suburban glee, football stars and chemistry…” and the scene is set for a tale of suburban frustration and hopelessness. We are reminded time and again that this seventeen year-old is well beyond her years, as words like “a candy apple kind of gray, an upper class massacred. Not a nickel to my name, my insecure DNA” exemplify her sophistication.
Fuzz box guitars and a cheap drum machine launch The Kills inspired ‘You’re Even On A Good Day.’ But once again, Kaleigh’s pop sensibilities surge forth in the Motown inspired chorus. Consider for a moment that she’s managed to merge Allison Mosshart with The Supremes and you begin to understand the depth of her creativity. She returns to the desert with ‘Las Cruces,’ the surf inspired rocker set to a Latin beat, and just in case you’re not convinced her demons are real, consider “…oh god, I wish I could, cut you, I wish could, crucify you.” Kaleigh makes good use of dynamics on the building and driving tune ‘Desert Medicine Man’, even if the PJ Harvey influence is apparent.
‘Candy Aisle Options’ is a slamming surf rocker, with a Pretenders twist, and Kaleigh’s vocal versatility is demonstrated throughout, from genteel and soft to screaming punk. This lady covers a lot of ground from the trance inducing ‘I Got A Thing For You’ to the Beatles inspired ‘Gretchen’, yet the blending of different styles and influences is effortless and seamless. Hilarity And Hijinx Ensue ends with a cascade of guitar echoes on ‘Agave Tequilana’, which manages to combine a Stone Temple Pilots type riff with an infectious R&B chorus; “You got nothin’ on me child, so you can’t touch me for awhile” sounds like it could have been sung by Aretha Franklin, but it’s distinctively Kaleigh. It’s difficult to believe that this tour de force was written and recorded by a seventeen year-old “mostly” in her bedroom, but then again, Kaleigh Ilia is a wunderkind. Get this album now, so when she conquers the world you can say you knew her when.
De Novo Music
released November 14, 2010
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