Album Review: Lula Wiles, ‘Shame and Sedition’

Spiraling harmonies spin and whirl ethereally around in roiling sonic eddies of dreamy, psychedelic folk on Lula Wiles’ transportive new album, Shame and Sedition. The sonic spaciousness of the songs allows the trio—Isa Burke, Ellie Buckland, Mali Obomsawin—to stretch out lyrically and musically to explore the sprawling social, cultural, and political issues raised by the pandemic, racial injustice, and poverty, among others.

The album opens with “In a Dream,” which circles ripple-by-ripple from the languid harmonies of the opening verses to the soaring and swooping psychedelic folks rock of the song’s final measures. The insistent drums that propel the second half of the song echo the opening percussive shuffle of the Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud,” just as the noodling guitars echo It’s a Beautiful Day’s “White Bird.” “Oh My God” rides in on a Neil Young-like lead guitar riff that blossoms into a resonant chorus of that echoes like Young’s “Ohio”; like Young’s incantatory anthem, “Oh My God” resounds with an incredulousness and anger about social inequities and delivers a warning about the consequences of that anger: “hunger is an engine and anger is fuel.” The shimmering “The Way That It Is” glitters with Roches-like harmonies in a brilliant tale of regret, loneliness, and acceptance, while the Beatles-esque “Everybody (Connected)”—floating along an “Across the Universe” vibe—explores our persistent desire to be connected, to the extent that we embrace superficial relationships across the digital universe to feel as if we are in community with others. Dazzling harmonies dance across the screen of “Television,” a riposte to Gil Scott-Heron’s comment that “the revolution will not be televised.” In “Television,” Lula Wiles points out that, on the contrary, our TV screens are filled with scenes of the “sharp knife between greed and ambition” and the “sharp knife between shame and sedition.” With piercing guitar strums and lead riffs and fiddle runs, the brightly propulsive “Mary Anne” explores the persistence of the past and the need to move on from it.

There’s a tenderness in the intimate vocals and sparse instrumental arrangements in some of the songs on Shame and Sedition, such as “Conspiracy Theory,” and a vibrant resilience in others, such as “In Dreams.” Lula Wiles’ ingenious lyrics evoke sadness and anger over our too-often divided society, even as they convey an underlying hope for unity and healing.

Shame and Sedition is available HERE.


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