|Lily Perdida is dead. At least, I think she’s dead. As the final notes of Clue to Kalo’s Lily Perdida waft from my speakers, eventually fading into the everyday static of ticking clocks and running water that is the norm in my household, I’m left to sit in wonder about the life of the album’s titular main character. By providing us with a barometer that’s little more than a garbled he-said-she-said of ideas and details, Lily Perdida’s unique narrative structure invites us to contemplate the intricacies of this fictional girl’s life without ever truly dispensing enough information to validate or confirm our observations.|
Lily Perdida isn’t a concept album so much as it is a character profile, a picture of Lily painted by ten different brushes. Over the course of its ten tracks, Mark Mitchell (under the guise of his mystic sobriquet Clue to Kalo) slowly unfolds various aspects of this girl’s life, each told by a distinct character (or set of characters) and from a distinct point of view. For sure, it’s difficult to sort through this mass of information and parse out what is or isn’t true, but this confusion over the reality of Lily’s life can’t be blamed solely on the record’s contradictory representation of her character.
Occasionally during the album, Mitchell dips into a vocal delivery that seems directly descended from Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine. On Hail to the Full Release, By the Boy, Mitchell conveys his convoluted lyrical content through an almost indecipherable layer cake of whispers and moans, causing his mishmash of vocal lines to become inseparably entwined with the track’s electronic folk aesthetic. Then, when the organ kicks in around the song’s 35 second mark, the issue is only further confused and the song evolves into a somewhat oblique wall of noise, albeit a pretty one. On much of the album, though, Mitchell’s hushed crooning clearly conveys his obtuse libretto, which when paired with Ellen Carey’s childish, tinny vocals come off like what might happen if Sufjan Stevens were to sing duet with Joanna Newsom.
And although Mark Mitchell isn’t Sufjan Stevens exactly, everyone’s favorite Americentric singer-songwriter isn’t a bad reference point for classifying Mitchell’s music. Like Stevens, Mitchell begins with a foundation of postmodern acoustic folk, ornamenting his languid chord progressions and hushed vocals with a hodgepodge of colorful instrumentation. Mitchell is never quite able to exhibit the ascendancy of his symphonic-pop companion, though, and his results consequently aren't as consistently interesting or engaging as Stevens’. With Illinois, Stevens proved his eloquent sense of climax and resolution, deftly balancing melody against countermelody and parceling out an almost overwhelming amount of orchestration. Lily Perdida is certainly the apogee of Mitchell’s work thus far, presenting a compelling package of immediate hooks and a lovely blend of male/female vocal harmonies that rivals other modern acts like The Raveonettes or The Kills. But Illinois it ain’t. Now, it may seem unfair to compare Mitchell’s work to that of an established pop wonder kid like Stevens. The similarities are there, though - Users to a Carrier, By the Sister would fit nicley alongside most of the tracks on Illinois - and they’re too obvious to ignore.
While it may not be the greatest thing to ever come out of the Po-Mo singer-songwriter scene, Lily Perdida offers plenty to admire. If for nothing but the wide variety of musical styles exhibited by Mitchell - from the bleary-eyed bedroom piano-pop of All’s Made Meaning, By the Chorus to the organ lead blues-rock boogie of The Infinite Orphan, By the Familiar - the album offers more than enough bang to keep you coming back. - No Ripcord