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15 March, 2013  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

A Puzzling Comeback

Spring brings along new albums from two talented female rock artists. Yulia Lord returns after a 14-year break with a good balance of rock and pop and a lot of electronic details in her new record. Zemfira offers an intimate and philosophic contemplation, returning to her original light rock sound.

Zemfira became brand name many years ago. It has been living a life that is completely detached from the real person that made it. Perhaps, this is what her new album To Live in Your Head is about. Or, more specifically, about her reluctance to be a style icon, yet there are too many “buts” awaiting her on her road of permanent dissent. That is why the sixth album is very quiet in every sense, featuring a pure analog sound of instruments and arrangements. The album has an intrinsically intimate and philosophic decadence that the mass audience does not really like or understand. Zemfira is no longer a scandal girl, a Kurt Cobain in a skirt. The motto of this record is in the dark phrase from the song If only: “I will have to die to change anything”. Indeed, the record contains a lot of death, solitude and contemplation.

The most popular Russian rock singer/songwriter is obviously tired of the excessive experiments with electronics in her previous album Thank You. In her latest one, she returns to her original light rock sound, reflecting her love for Radiohead in many references to the band’s mid-1990s music in her own songs. The reaction to this sudden return to her musical roots has been controversial. Many see such a Zemfira as a secondary, infantile and pretentious artist. Others say this is her most honest and timely creation: she managed to grasp the zeitgeist in the themes of her songs. The upcoming tour to promote the album, covering Kyiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Odesa, will probably explain the details. 

After the peak of her popularity in the late 1990s, Yulia Lord disappeared from the music scene for a while, releasing just a few singles and a Christmas mini album with Yuriy Hnatkovsky. Her disappearance was hardly a break artists take to restore their creative reserves. On the contrary, she must have spent the 14 years between her debut mini-record Tanets Dush (The Dance of Souls) and 8 Sekund (8 Seconds), the latest record released in 2012, searching for a new sound and new quality to her music, especially arrangements. Expectations for this first feature album – and her widely anticipated comeback – were really high. The first impression of the LP is a noticeable difference between the live and studio versions of the tracks. It is not striking really, but it is often the tiny details that mean a lot, and this is the case here. The balance of rock and pop in the album, has a European feel to it, tilting more to the pop side. This experiment by Yulia Lord is unusual, albeit professional and sincere. Back in the 1990s, it was a fusion of different styles, from alternative rock to trip hop and pop rock, in her music, and her sophisticated sensuality with a pinch of aggression that brought her fame. Today, she  has the same charm, while her new songs have a lot of electronic details, the main accent being on the vocals, as always. In fact, the singing is the best part of 8 Seconds. Still, most tracks are so much of an experiment, that Yulia’s long-time fans will only really like several tracks. The younger audience with no memories of the 1990s may like it better. But everyone should go to her gig to get some good drive and hear her old hits.  


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