EP Review: Lilo’s ‘Sleep Country’ teaches the true meaning of bittersweet.

The Breakdown

Shows a complete vision, with a deep emotional complexity and beautiful performances throughout. Certainly worth a listen for anyone who considers themselves fans of indie-folk.

New from Practise Music comes the full length EP by duo Lilo, entitled ‘Sleep Country’. The record is a collaboration between BFFs Christie Gardner and Helen Dixon, and partly comprises the best of their singles released piece-by-piece throughout the previous year. 

There’s a certain understated power and weight to the songs Lilo has produced for this EP. The sound treads a familiar path for those who are fans of indie-folk, but I think these listeners will be engaged by the level of character and maturity that the duo shows on this release. 

I could throw out names to try and place this sound for you, Laura Marling, Vashti Bunyan, Feist etc etc… But I think Lilo’s strength is in the immediacy of their personality, which is distinct and well-envisioned. They have charm in their performances, with lyrics that engender wisdom and songs that remain memorable. 

I think a real testament to this idea is the song ‘Beach (Real Love)’ that seeks to define love by its realities. I have had this song in my head sporadically since first listening to it as a single released last year, and it remains a favourite on this EP even now. The production has a real potency, and I feel uplifted by the layered instrumentation every time I hear this song. 

All the songs on this release have a very specific bitter-sweetness to them that I found profound and touching. They never feel fully sad, but never hit a melodramatic high-note either, it sounds like finally coming to terms with something difficult, and I think this element gives the record a very interesting quality. 

On the lower emotional end of the spectrum, you have songs like ‘Losing’ which is a slow-burn piano track that features some stirring harmonies from the two leads. It’s tastefully sombre, much like the opener ‘Changes’ which starts the record a few notches higher on the sadness spectrum. 

With ‘Changes’ I think there’s a statement about not taking everything on the record to be one-note emotionally, with the lyrics proclaiming the complexities of wanting things to change but knowing that will be at the cost of how things are. It’s a song about the quandaries of balancing other people’s wants, and is impressive in it’s simple approach to a difficult topic. 

Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

I want to also mention the great instrumentation on ‘Scarecrow’ which has a restless, underlying fingerpicked-guitar element to it that really compliments the themes of time moving onwards that the lyrics explore. Likewise, are the crashing dynamics of the EP’s closing track ‘Somekind’.

This song shows a real scope of ambition for the band, that swells to become a choral crescendo for the entire EP. I think it’s this song that leaves me with a lot of promise for Lilo’s future endeavours.

They’ve really come out of the gate with the kind of ideas and presence that comes from carefully building up songwriting skills for a long time, and I think it bodes well that they are already able to make songs that are this memorable.

‘Sleep Country’ is available for streaming now, and is available to buy via Lilo’s bandcamp. It is also available to buy on Vinyl there too, and the band will be playing a EP-release gig at the Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on the 8th.

Previous IFFR Review: Freaks Out
Next EP: Sydney's A Place In The Sky unveils the melodic pop jangle brilliance of 'Isolation'.

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