She Makes War – “Little Battles” (2012, Independent)
Laura Kidd, otherwise known as She Makes War, lives up to her name with this tightly wound example of exceptional alternative rock. Like a cross between Juliette Lewis and Juliana Hatfield, Kidd loads the 15 tracks on Little Battles with delicate vocals which anchor the crunching edge of the fully-loaded aural backdrops
“Exit Strategy” is the album’s brooding center: “Sometimes I’m only talking to myself,” she sings as thundering percussion, guitars and dueling synth effects create a wall of ear candy. “So I face my pretty tragedies; I contrive, survive little battles in my mind. I make my exit strategy — I deny I don’t try!” The album lives up to the battle-cry, each song building upon the last through shifting dynamics and edgy, confident songwriting, to create an album worthy of close headphone listening.
If you go into the album, however, expecting 15 variations on the theme of “Exit Strategy,” all with the same thundering punch and similar dynamic expressions, you’re going to be disappointed.Little Battles wins the musical war by dancing around expectations, building an album which stands strong because it’s so varied and adventurous.
“Magpie Heart” is a perfect example. The song initially sounds like a brooding singer-songwriter acoustic track, but builds its tightly-controlled fury through shifting highs and lows; by the time we reach the chorus and are then gently pulled back, the song has me thinking Smashing Pumpkins for all its twists and turns. This isn’t music for the lazy, but the rewards for those who dig deep are more than worth the effort. “Delete” then immediately twists expectations, providing an oddly structured, mind-bendingly addictive purely vocal example of what Madonna could be doing in the modern musical landscape if she was as willing to not repeat herself as Laura Kidd seems to be.
She Makes War’s Little Battles is already the most innovative rock record of the year, an album which plays well from front to back because of the artist’s intense commitment to tying each of these tiny masterpieces together into a cohesive whole. Each song works well on its own, but they rise to fuller heights as the individual pieces of a bigger puzzle. This album deserves to be the topic of every conversation about amazing, genre-bending music this summer. Here’s hoping She Makes War finds the audience it richly deserves.