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ADA LEA

Ada Lea

One Hand On The Steering Wheel The Other Sewing A Garden

    one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden is the name of the second album by Canadian songwriter Alexandra Levy, publicly known by the moniker Ada Lea. On one hand, it’s a collection of walking-paced, cathartic pop/folk songs, on the other it’s a book of heart-twisting, rear-view stories of city life. Ada Lea has followed up the creative, indie-rock songcraft of her debut what we say in private with surprising arrangements and new perspectives. The album is set in Montreal and each song exists as a dot on a personal history map of the city where Levy grew up. Due on September 24th from Saddle Creek and Next Door Records in Canada, the physical record will be released alongside a map of song locations and a songbook with chords and lyrics, inspired by Levy’s love of real book standards.

    Levy penned and demoed this batch of songs in an artist residency in Banff, Alberta. After sorting and editing she made her way to Los Angeles to record with producer/engineer Marshall Vore (Phoebe Bridgers) who had previously worked on 2020’s woman, here E.P. After a long walk to the studio each morning, Levy spent her session days diving into the arrangements, playfully letting everything fall in place with complete trust for her collaborators. She notes “Marshall’s expertise and experience with drumming and songwriting was the perfect blend for what the songs needed. He was able to support me in a harmonic, lyrical, and rhythmic sense.” Other contributors that left a notable fingerprint on the soundscape include drummer Tasy Hudson, guitarist Harrison Whitford (of Phoebe Bridgers band), and mixing engineer Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett). Many songs came together with a blend of studio tracks and elements from the pre-recorded demos.

    The resulting sounds range from classic, soft-rock beauty to intimate finger-picked folk passages and night-drive art-pop. And the textures are frequently surprising due to the collage of lo-fi and hi-fi sounds that tastefully decorate the album without ever clouding the heart-center of the song. Tracks like “damn” and “oranges” feel timeless with their AM gold groove and 70’s studio sheen, while songs like “my love 4 u is real '', “salt spring” and “can’t stop me from dying” sound completely modern in their use of electronics, sound effects, and pitched vocals. In their subtle, sonic variety, all of the album’s songs flow together with ease into one big, romantic dream for Levy’s silken vocals to float above.

    Inspired by personal experience, daydreams, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the lyrics of one hand... center storytelling on a bigger scale. The experience and emotions of a year are communicated through Levy’s vignettes of city life. Her prose is centered in its setting of the St Denis area of Montreal as it draws up memories from local haunts like Fameux, La Rockette, and Quai des Brumes in rearview reverie. Levy creates a balance through the album’s year by splitting her songs evenly into four seasons. Opening track “damn”, as a song of winter, kicks off the narrative with the events of a cursed New Year’s Eve party. Immediately this timeline becomes jumbled into a Proustian haziness. The listener is then led through the heat-stricken, brain fog of Summer song, “can’t stop me from dying” and then into the autumnal romanticism of “oranges” before returning back to New Year’s on “partner,” which Levy describes as “a woozy late-night taxi blues reflection on moments when timing can be so right, yet so wrong…”. These collected stories as a whole chart the unavoidable growth that comes with experience. “All is forgiven in time. All is forgotten in time. And when the music stopped, I heard an answer” (from “my love 4 u is real”).

    Whether to consider these songs fiction or memoir remains unknown. On one hand, Levy says “Why would I try to write a story that’s not my own? What good would that do?” but on the other hand, she is quick to note the ways that language fails to describe reality, and how difficult this makes it to tell an actually true story. The poetic misuse of the word “sewing” in the album’s title serves as a nod to the limitations words provide. What does it mean to sew the garden? And how can we appreciate its carefully knit blooms when the rearview mirror is so full of car exhaust?

    TRACK LISTING

    01. Damn 4:21
    02. Can't Stop Me From Dying 3:09
    03. Oranges 4:54
    04. Partner 3:45
    05. Saltspring 4:23
    06. And My Newness Spoke To Your Newness And It Was A Thing Of Endless 0:56
    07. My Love 4 U Is Real 4:31
    08. Backyard 2:56
    09. Writer In Ny 3:19
    10. Violence 4:26
    11. Hurt 3:31

    Ada Lea

    What We Say In Private

      Montreal, Quebec-based musician Ada Lea is also a painter and visual artist, and traces of her many creative abilities run throughout her debut album what we say in private, a beautifully colorful collection of profound pop songs.

      To her, music and visual art are different vessels for communicating similar ideas. Ada Lea’s appreciation of female artists -- including the writer Sylvia Plath, visual artists Frida Kahlo and Eva Hesse, and musicians Karen Dalton and Nina Simone -- provides inspiration and guidance, informing her use of multiple artforms as tools for self-expression. Whether it’s creating music or art, “It's a world that I can build around me and sit inside,” she says. Through all her work, Ada Lea explores the concept of womanhood as it feels and looks to her, as well as love and how it transforms over time. She doesn’t shy away from exploring uncomfortable and painful emotions, either. With the brightness of love, strength, and hope contrasted with the darkness of loss, suffering, isolation, and abandonment, what we say in private is a varied and vivid record that constantly seems to shift in the light, bringing together all the intricate influences she’s collected over the years.

      What we say in private began with a need to document the ending of an important romantic relationship. Following a tormented period of staying up all night (sometimes days at a time), frantically painting or writing songs as a means of coping, she journalled for 180 days in the hope of finding herself again. She conducted this period of analysis and introspection in private, like most of her creative pursuits, and the process eventually resulted in a rebirth: a rediscovery of self and a new sense of freedom and self-acceptance.

      These chaotic feelings and the resulting catharsis are deeply felt in the final recording of what we say in private. Ada Lea wanted the album to feel like a journal entry from those 180 days as she cycled through emotions. Throughout, she expresses feelings and thoughts that all humans experience behind closed doors and alone, but are conditioned to keep to themselves. This is reflected in the lyrics, the artwork, and the songs -- together forming a public exhibition of deeply private matter. The album is a collection of raw, confessional, and at times messy emotions, presented to a society that can fear such realness, often favoring the uncomplicated, curated, and manicured.

      Ada Lea delivers something very special on what we say in private. Bold and daring, but also gentle and vulnerable, the album finds new ways of presenting its vision from one inspired idea to the next, a big leap into the wider world with passion and exuberance.


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: 'What We Say In Private' is a multi-textured wonder, swimming with hints of psychedelic rock, switched time signatures and roaring rock peaks, before retracting again into insular minimalistic indie and gentle folky guitars. Never jarring, but relying heavily upon Lea's mastery of jagged algorithmic changes, this LP is a mindblowing kicking off point for an artist who will no doubt be massive.

      TRACK LISTING

      01. Mercury
      02. Wild Heart
      03. The Party
      04. For Real Now (not Pretend)
      05. Just One, Please
      06. What Makes Me Sad
      07. The Dancer
      08. Yanking The Pearls Off Around My Neck...
      09. 180 Days
      10. Easy


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