For her second album, Kyla La Grange has very much hit the Abort. Reboot. Reload buttons.
Two years ago, the Watford singer-songwriter’s debut, Ashes, saw her embrace a kind of gothic romanticism yet betrayed her early years steeped in folk music. Songs largely unfolded over guitar and murmuring minor electronics, yet lent themselves to one-woman-and-an-acoustic-guitar performance.
For this follow-up, La Grange has smashed that same guitar and immersed herself in Garageband, synths and ambient electro. To this end she has drafted in as producer electro auteur Jakwob, a man best known for dextrous digital remixes of artists as various as Lily Allen, Lana Del Rey and Usher.
Jakwob clearly knows his way around a studio, but he is not given much to work with here. Cut Your Teeth has a lustrous sheen but the songs beneath it are somewhat spindly. La Grange is patently aiming for an Ellie Goulding-style spectral dream-pop, but frequently the songs are so slight that they are merely anaemic.
Best is the title track, whose sleek high drama recalls the most broodily romantic moments of Fleetwood Max as La Grange breathes, ‘I bled words onto a page for you, you never knew my name.’ However, often the sepia, soft-focus melancholy that is the album’s default mode is so wishy-washy that it simply never snags the attention.
Typical is I Don’t Hate You, a shoulder-heaving ballad buried beneath pitter-pattering digitalia that sounds far too amiable and indifferent to justify its red-blooded title. White Doves pretends to an emotional depth that it simply doesn’t possess; The Knife opens with, of all things, steel drums, but then fizzles out into yet more vague, whispered and ill-defined mysticism.
La Grange has now shown herself to be capable and proficient in two musical genres without displaying the slightest sign of a unique selling point, or of having anything special to say. Cut Your Teeth is often pretty – but it is never anything more.