Who doesn’t love a quirky girl with a piano? The past 30 years of rock music have given us Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Regina Spektor, each garnering comparisons to one another to be fiercely denied and disputed by their devoted followers. And each of the aforementioned women, as well as the countless they have inspired, has managed to endear themselves to listeners in some unique way that encourages such loyalties and debates.
Alina Orlova, the latest quirky girl with a piano awaiting her devotees, distinguishes herself primarily with Eastern European influences in what are otherwise slightly left of mainstream pop songs. Her full length debut, Laukinis Suo Dingo, (which literally translates from Lithuanian as ‘Dog Gone Wild’), is peppered with accordion jaunts, sampled drums, and glockenspiels, but it is, essentially, the insistent piano that drives it forward.
There is very little in the way of progression within her songs. Though dramatic, they are kept incredibly brief, with some coming in at just over a minute. Without time to allow suspense to build up, most of them give you all they have to give at the outset.
Though her arrangements are minimalist, her sound is expansive. There is the illusion of lush orchestration when it is often simply Orlova and her piano, and whatever subtle accent instruments accompany them. This works inversely as well. On the most playful track, ‘Transatlantic Love,’ the staccato of a ukulele (because ukulele will be ubiquitous to the ‘10s in the same way cowbell terrorised the ‘00s) and abbreviated piano chords feel more contained than her sparser orchestrations.
The Lithuania-born Orlova sings primarily in the language of her home country, with a few English endeavours. And to share the ignorance of one who is accustomed to listening to music almost exclusively in languages s/he understands, something is gained by listening to lyrics you can’t figure out. For the majority of the album, Orlova’s voice trips and trills as an independent instrument. It doesn’t really matter whether or not you understand the lyrics of songs like ‘Nesvarbu’ or ‘Ramuma;’ regardless of what Orlova is saying, she is still successfully conveying a level of emotion and intensity you can connect to.
The most perplexing moment of the album comes on 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', which is not an attempt at being cutesy, but rather the familiar childhood lyrics set to Orlova’s composition. No matter how unrecognisable the tune, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s singing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. If she were singing in Lithuanian, the song wouldn’t bare any resemblance to the nursery rhyme, but in English no amount of vocal effects can divert the distraction.
It is a testament to Orlova’s quirk - or perhaps a test of tolerance of the listener - that she tries to spin something unique from something so commonplace. But for a debut, she has a pretty solid grasp on her limits. If given the chance, Orlova is bound to find a way to contort the familiar from every angle.
7Amanda Farah's Score