The Appealing Uneasiness of Listening to L’Rain (Live at JBL)

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L’Rain is the musical persona of singer and multi-instrumentalist Taja Cheek, whose new album, Fatigue, begins with a lyrical quandary: “What have you done to change?”

What follows is a journey of self-discovery, the songs interwoven with home recordings of practicing piano, clapping games, and everyday life. The first full length song, “Find It,” repeats the mantra “Make a way out of no way,” looking for a path out of darkness. An unexpected sample of a preacher at a friend’s funeral service — recorded with permission by L’Rain — interrupts the chant promising that “Good days outweigh my bad days.”

But L’Rain doesn’t provide quick solutions for making change. Rather, she takes us on a journey that evades easy understanding. By avoiding conventional structures, L’Rain asks the listener to lean in close to the music. The sounds are at times unsettling — on “Blame Me,” the guitar warbles in and out of tune — though the uncomfortable moments are blanketed over on songs such as “Take Two,” where warm synthesizers mix with angelic voices. The melodic hooks and captivating rhythms on “Suck Teeth” reveal L’Rain’s command over the experimental work — she is meticulous about building layers of sound on her many instruments.

Had L’Rain pursued a more traditional style of songwriting, or further fleshed out Fatigue’s catchiest moments, the record might be an easier listen — but not as rewarding. Instead, its undulating moods and nonlinearity mirror the unpredictability of human emotion and the up-and-down nature of personal change. To help decipher this album, Switched On Pop’s Charlie Harding spoke with L’Rain at JBL’s flagship store in Soho in front of a live audience.

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257 episodes