We already know that Lisa Conway, the voice behind projects such as Del Bel and Chrome and the Ice Queen, has an incredible voice. With the release of a solo EP as L CON, Conway uses her expressive alto to focus a set of melody-driven songs with a deep sense of melancholia. It is titled The Ballad Project – these are down-tempo tunes with a noir sensibility that use love as subject matter, narratives and imagery reflecting the emotional content.
The EP begins with “All Gone, All Gone”, a song built up on a skeleton of cello and the rest of the string family, introducing the emotional black-hole of the album. The narrator discusses the future: “And all loneliness will cease, the dead less deceased. And we’ll feel more like tissue and bone, more like human and more at home.” There is a forced optimism in the assertion that things will get better, but the track paints a bleak picture of the present: alone, numb, no one to talk to.
The heart-broken sentiments continue as the EP progresses, filled with longing for earthly comfort and a hand to hold. But even after love is found, it is not necessarily a happy ending – “To Forget” presents a cynical view of love (“Oh how we tricked each other, love, into thinking there’s a point in this”) that overshadows the desire to believe in the truth behind relationships.
So maybe these are not ballads in the fullest sense. Only “Tangled”, the shortest song, espouses anything good about being in love (though it is filled with some wonderful flourishing string parts). The final song brings being alone back into play: “Well to hell with the honest words and wandering eyes. A kiss will do fine, kill the loneliness for a while.” It feels resigned, willing to give into love, but uneasiness persists with the reminder that being with someone is only a way to temporarily wade off loneliness anyway.
The six songs blend together seamlessly, sharing the same general sonic moodiness and detailed instrumentation. Along with the strings, horns, piano and backing vocals add atmosphere to Conway’s thoughtful vocals. The Ballad Project is a demonstration that Conway has much more to offer than her incredible voice. The song-writing and orchestration she displays while striking out on her suggest a very bright future indeed.
The EP is available from Daps Records.
Top Tracks: “To Forget”, “All Gone, All Gone”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really good)