Named for the mythical female figure whose image has become imbued with symbolism and potency, ‘Lilith’ is as forthright a debut as you’re likely to hear. It comes as no surprise to see the likes of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey named as influences of Naoise Roo, so dark, deathly, and carnal are the sounds and words that she and her band dispense with visceral intent.
The singer’s commanding vocal is the album’s chief power source, and that authoritative presence is stamped on each track on ‘Lilith’ right from the portentous Uh Oh. Organically springing from a deep bass and drum intro, Roo’s vocal shifts from low intonation to a tremulous high pitch with the theatricality of Amanda Palmer, as the track suddenly erupts into a kind of baroque rocker.
Oh Son prowls with similar resolve before kicking off with forceful zeal, the band throwing their full weight behind Roo’s lament. Reminiscences of Dexys’ I Couldn’t Help If I Tried can be detected through an aptly-titled Almost Perfect; slowed down, with a Kurt Wagner waver in the vocal, gradually and gently building in stature towards its conclusion.
Whore is darker, more erotic – just bass and vocals creating the laden intimacy before the band gradually join the tryst as guitars softly squeal in the background. Sheets is comparably intimate and equally frank, skipping along like rumbling jazz/blues hokum with a vocal that keens and trembles salaciously, “Take a lover that don’t satisfy/ Throw him out before my sheets are dry.”
Sing To Me rolls along at a stately pace, languid and woozily psychedelic, almost trip hop in its beginnings. The band crank it up for the finale, where the layered backing vocals that add a choir-like hue, crashing cymbals, and distorted guitars all vie for attention.
For You / Postcard is a more ambitious bipartite track – the former sees Roo dispense heartfelt lyrics over a heartbeat drum pulse and ambient instrumentation. That pulsing beat begins to stutter into palpitations, then recedes, as the song morphs into the tender ballad of Postcard. This track seems the most personal (“Send me a postcard/Make it funny/Make it something only I would get”), with Roo’s voice and lyrics to the fore and only the most sympathetic and sparing of interjections from the band.
‘Lilith’ exudes confidence; both in the full-on approach the band take to the tracks and in Roo’s equally full-blooded delivery and lyrical candour. As musical styles swing from balladry to rock, to blues and jazz, through cabaret and burlesque-conjuring vocal inflections, the unifying factor is that impressive voice. It’s an album that holds its in own despite a hat-tip to many genres; frequently intense, though darkly humorous with it.