Pittsburgh (by way of Rome) solo artist Lilian Traviato has been riffing on the bass guitar since she was eight years old. She has lamented that her affinity for the bass guitar has kept her “aware of the importance of a good groove.” Oddly enough I had been listening to a lot of Joy Division and its successor New Order. The bass player in both of these bands, Peter Hook, is without pun intended (well maybe a little bit) responsible for the sometimes hard edged and at others irresistibly dance-inducing thumps. Then there is of course one of these most famous bass players of all time, a fellow by the name of Paul McCartney, who’s bass lines infected so many of the Beatles classic tunes.
Throughout high school (Traviato is now eighteen) she began to experiment in garage band recording covers, her first being Lou Reed’s groove-laden classic “Walk on the Wild Side” and eventually began to write and record her own material. Her debut album Practically Civilized sounds remarkably polished, likely a result of her fastidious efforts.
Practically Civilized opens with “The Talking Drug” which is built on a synthetically bouncy early electronic art-beat reminiscent of early German electronic auteurs Kraftwerk, who Traviato also cites as an influence. This Kraftwerk influence bleeds through into the mellow swells of “Parade of Consolations” and keeps going strong into “Conversationally.” In this trio of songs however Traviato’s quiet yet firm vocals, steeped in R&B rhythms are what ties everything together and somehow makes it all work. This recipe is perhaps most potent on the positively lovely “Moolah Man.”
Traviato takes chances on Practically Civilized like on the just over a minute long “January” a spritely keyboard and effects ditty that eerily turns on a dime and allows her to experiment with her vocals and samples. Then comes the funky and radio-friendly groove “Let it Spin,” which sounds like Lily Allen remixed by Lauryn Hill. Lyrically, vocally and musically it has everything a radio friendly ear would want to hear on heavy rotation.
Practically Civilized is by far one of the best records I’ve heard this year by an unsigned artist. Lilian Traviato sounds wise beyond her years. And though I can only assume that this record is the result of countless years of hard work, Traviato makes each song sound as though it was created effortlessly.
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