After several awards, openings for established acts like Jack White and Tom Jones, writing the theme tune to a TV series (the 2011 legal drama Crownies) and an acclaimed debut album (2011’s To the Horses), Australian singer-songwriter Lanie Lane returns with Night Shade.
Co-produced by Lane and partner Jez Mead, the record is ideal for solitary yet comforting nights by the moon. Solid opener Salute has Lane’s pure vocals penetrating through a murky, ambient waltz complete with wailing feedback, crashing cymbals, pattering drums and brash brass. I See You wanders in a direction that is a bit too airy-fairy, before the walking bass of single Celeste brings the album back to Earth with its Australian-Crawl-like beach vibe and groovy chorus.
Olympia is a tender, affecting tribute to the act of the same name. It captivates listeners through its divine chorus and insistent ‘don’t you lose it’ hook that perpetuate the ‘night in’ feel of the album. Lunar influences abound on the warm, yelping and campfire-like La Loba (Spanish for the mythical character ‘the she-wolf’). The strange skiffle of The Phantom has a chorus with the sparkle of jazz hands and creepy brass that creeps up on the listener like a shadow in the night.
The shimmy-worthy You Show Me How I Should Like It has no mystery about it. It the first real up-tempo ‘kick’ on the album, as it is unambiguously saucy. The stop-start rhythm of the clamouring drums is bound to get heart rates racing and release listeners’ inhibitions.
No Sound also drips with lust and intimacy (with claustrophobic lines like ‘enemy’s close, breathing my face’, intricate guitar work and the odd Phil-Spector-esque drum touch), making it well-suited for smoky nightclubs. It marks the first time that Lane really lets go vocally. In addition, her repetition on lines throughout the album like ‘check, check, check’ and ‘day day day day’ (earlier on The Phantom) generate a thrilling and nearly horrifying sense of foreboding.
The stark, raw R&B of Made for It takes thing nice and slow, exposing Lane’s willingness to emotionally and physically strip herself bare. The fact Lane recorded the album’s vocals in her bedroom is especially evident on this intimate track, as lyrics like ‘my weakness is fate’ and ‘corner me in the dark’ are delivered with breathy conviction. It is fitting that Underneath (on which Lane opens her heart) comes right afterwards.
The bare but lovely Mother has Lane revelling in her fragility and kinship with other female role models, before hidden track Even Under Fire ends the album with a lullaby that unfortunately does not captivate quite as much as prior album tracks.
Night Shade is unequivocally a feminine body of work. Although it does not work quite as well in the light of day and is better for nighttime listening, it features strong songwriting from Lane and performances from her band that do touch listeners at an emotional level.