REVIEW: LELIA BROUSSARD – MASQUERADE (2011)
I see big things for Lelia Broussard’s voice. It’s sweet but not annoying. It’s got texture, but not so much that she would narrow her audience. It’s original enough that you won’t think twice to compare her to a Michelle Branch or a Colbie Caillat. I remember listening to Rise, an early release some years back: the difference in sound and conviction in her voice on Masquerade is staggering. Broussard has clearly worked very hard to channel her own voice, no longer somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Liz Phair – that work has payed off. I don’t know what the secret behind mastering her voice is. It may have a lot to do with experience. She’s tried and tested different ways of communicating and on Masquerade, I feel she’s at her most open, her most intimate yet. Still, for me it almost isn’t intimate enough. What keeps me from sympathetically bearing her guilt, her fears and frustrations with her is the major-label-style production.
« Shoot for the Moon » mentions moving to LA from New York, and the production on this album sounds like she’s done just that. But I was then dumbfounded when I learned that her fourth opus was recorded, produced and arranged in the Big Apple by and with Brooklynite Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Allison Weiss, Jenny Owen Youngs). So while California has apparently not left its surfer-music imprint on her songs, there’s still an incredible sweetness to their production. Which is too bad because some of these songs are really sad and I wish the production reflected some of the gravity in her songwriting.
The grace of this album is found in Broussard’s humor and self-awareness with telling lyrics like « Hipster bitch, God knows I’m nothing like her… ». Well thank goodness. If independent music was made of « hipster bitches », there would be no range or diversity. I applaud her for sticking to her guns and making independent music that isn’t the most trendy with the « hipster set » but that attests most truthfully to her personal taste and aesthetic aims. She isn’t reinviting the wheel, but she’s still authentic.
For this reason alone I can’t say it isn’t a good album. But beyond that, it’s enjoyable and worthy of finding its way onto charts. Ms. Broussard and her songs are crowd pleasers, between « Masquerade » and « Hipster Bitch » there’s much material to decorate an episode of your favorite TV dramedy. That may be a little too saccharine for some, but it doesn’t take away from the strength of these ten songs, most worthy of your attention, all leaving me curious to hear them just a little more bare.