MUSIC MICA AUSTRIA/ Michael Ternai (15.11.2013)
Lana Is – In Your Head
Lana Cencic’s past musical projects (Lana & Flip) have generally been jazz-oriented. Lana Is, the solo debut (Session Work Records) by the Croatian singer, pianist and composer, has little in common with jazz in its fundamental sense. The sound she has discovered for herself may best be described as pop – not the superficial and shallow sort, but still a version of this genre. Far from the mainstream, she expresses her originality and creativity with skill and artistry. Her songs are diverse, multifaceted and – perhaps the clearest association with jazz – not subject to the conventional one- size-fits-all approach of pop music. If it can be given a label at all, it is probably best described as art- pop in a stylistically colourful tonal attire. The versatile and talented singer can be heard live on 15 November in the Summerstage Pavilion in Vienna.
Lana Is clearly endeavours to liberate pop music from the confines of current fashions and trends. The singer and her band develop their own timeless and highly creative sound. Singing in a diverse range of styles, Lana, whose voice is sometimes like a softer version of Anneke van Giersbergen, former lead singer of the Dutch avant-garde band The Gathering, is also notable for her sophisticated and varied songwriting, which occasionally includes spontaneous breaks and twists.
With numbers that range from rock (“Will Persist”) to sensitively restrained (“Something’s Coming”, “So Long”) and laid-back smooth jazz (“Towards Myself”, “I Don’t Need To Be Saved”), the singer avoids repetition and gives each of her songs a distinctive note. Now and again, similarities with the legendary pop icon Kate Bush can be heard, without in anyway spoiling the overall impression. Fortunately, Lana Is has enough originality to stand up on its own.
“In Your Head” certainly passes the test. Lana Is is full of songs that stick in the mind and become more and more fascinating with time – a really strong and convincing debut.
Jazz pop / Heavy pop
“In Your Head”
Related: Björk; Kate Bush; Karen Mantler
You really need to fall in love with a singer like Lana – otherwise her music doesn’t work. Fortunately, the Croatian singer, dancer and actress doesn’t make it difficult to be drawn into her musical world. Now living in New York, she has recorded this debut album with guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bass player Elvind Opsvik and drummer Dan Weiss. She manages consciously to stay a hair’s breadth from the mainstream. There is jazz and swing, as well as intricate numbers reminiscent of Björk or Kate Bush, although Lana’s voice is not dreamy but brittle. She can sound as naïve and whimsical as Karen Mantler, the daughter of Carla Bley and Michael Mantler, on “Her Cat Arnold Get the Flu” album, albeit without anything of Mantler’s heavy jazz overtones. The poetic lyrics, often in contrast to the simple naïve music, are a further unsuspected quality. “In Your Head” is quite simply foot-tapping music for the head.
Top track: Something’s Coming
Musikreviews/ Andreas Schiffmann (20.10.2013)
Lana Is: In Your Head
Artist: Lana Is
Album: In Your Head
Style: singer songwriter
Label: Session Work / Harmonia Mundi
Release: 11 October 2013
The Zagreb-born New Yorker fronting this band (!) is part-diva, part-brat, but the speech songs and elegant melodies (“In Your Head”) on this album ultimately offer much more and promise a fascinating sound experience.
The fairy-like “I Want To” and the almost onomatopoeic “Biti” (Lana should sing more often in her mother tongue) are more experimental, but in general the album is agreeably difficult to categorise, particularly within the female singer songwriter genre. It is notable for the warm and sometimes lush arrangements (choirs, layered electric guitars) and spirited playfulness on the part of the instrumentalists and rhythm section in particular, typically in the stumbling “Will Persist”. This song is reminiscent of The Gatherings’ “How To Measure A Planet?” phase, while the epic “Lord of the Universe” has an appropriately progressive arrangement.
The more conventional piano ballads “Something’s Coming” and “So Long” are out of the ordinary without being alienating, while a chamber music sound is achieved with the double bass and strings (“Too Late”). The r&b “I Don’t Need To Be Saved” (great lyrics) is a nice foot-tapper, if one was needed in a collection that already glitters. LANA IS paints a mythically detailed sound in which everything nevertheless has its place without overpowering the listener, who will also gain immense insights by listening carefully to the contents – both lyrical and musical – of “In Your Head”. A welcome direct hit from an unsuspected source.
SUMMARY: LANA IS is the ideal answer to those who believe that they know all about female singer songwriters, departing as it does from the beaten stylistic path trodden by Tori, Kate and the rest – one of the discoveries of the year!
Rocktimes/Wolfgang Giese (31.10.2013)
Lana Is / In Your Head
Today I am writing about a debut album. Lana Is comes from Lana Cencic from Zagreb, capital of Croatia. She was born into a musical family and came into contact with music at an early age, performing for the first time at the age of just three years. She has appeared previously under her real name, as Lana & Flip, amongst other things with the jazz quintet Flip Philipp.
The album is being publicised by u.k. promotion, so I was naturally expecting something jazzy, but after a few bars I had to rethink. It rocks gently with a voice that takes some getting used to. Lana jumps easily back and forth from high to low notes, yammers, scratches, whimpers, crows and pronounces her lyrics as bold as brass. Independent rock was my first attempt at categorisation. The second number is also cumbersome, with rhythms, breaks and unusual small surprises within the arrangement.
This music is quite complicated in its structure and many elements slip in through the back door. The second song, for example, marches resolutely in the direction of jazz rock, and then a wailing distorted guitar enters on the scene, and above everything is this voice, multi-tracked into a background vocal group. By the end you have the feeling that you are listening to a completely different song – but it’s still the same one.
The cool, laid-back sound reminds me more than once of Kate Bush, whose crazy way of arranging songs occasionally shines through. The acoustic bass on “I Don’t Need To Be Saved” then brings in something of a jazz feeling – albeit as only one of many style elements.
“I Want To” creates yet another mood, the plucked mandolin sounding quite different from the country and folk genre where this instrument usually belongs. In combination with the rhythmic hand-clapping and soft cymbals it creates an original atmosphere most reminiscent of some of Björk’s numbers – an outstanding song and one of the highpoints of an album that is not short of highlights.
There is also a ballad “So Long” on which Lana accompanies herself on the piano. This song is quite special as well, with its emotive, music-of-the-spheres sound. “Biti” features a new instrument, the Hang, developed in the year 2000 in Berne, Switzerland. In the hands of Manu Delago, these two glued sheet-steel half-shells produce a mystical sound to accompany the overlaid singer’s voice – once again a highly unusual effect.
I have heard lots of unusual music and this album belongs there – highly recommended for its individuality and unusualness! This music tugs at and rubs up against our normal listening habits, demands attention and draws the listener into its sea of imaginative ideas. It is fascinatingly infectious, thrusting itself powerfully on the ears and senses, pulling you into a maelstrom that opens up limitless depths.
Rolling Stone/Max Goesche and Joern Schlueter- December 2013 (Edition 230)
Lana Is In Your Head
Daughter of a well-known family of classical musicians from Zagreb with an avant-garde jazz-pop- rock album recorded in New York, among others with guitarist Brandon Seabrook, known for his John-Zorn-like free-spirited playing. Very diverse songs, some like a mild version of Ani DiFranco, some experimental onomatopoeia with atonal multi-layered singing and exciting instrumental ornamentation, some studded with abstract references to Balkan folklore. Music without regimentation and fixed forms: fascinating.
Lana Is – In Your Head
The singer songwriter, actress and dancer born in Zagreb and living in New York enriches the music world with a successful debut album notable above all for its complex song structures and the artist’s expressive voice. The intricacy of the songs is achieved not through pompous instrumentation or bombastic sound but through intelligent rhythms including numerous breaks and surprising twists and effective instrument combinations. Put together, it is not easy to process but has great character that matures and grows on you.