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Writings On The Wall (Review)

Basia Lyjak Writings on the Wall By: Jason Daniel Baker October 07, 2007 It is perhaps amongst the music industry’s lesser known secrets that Billy Joel and Michael Bolton each started their respective careers as hard rock performers. Neither fit the mould and both would discover themselves musically going on to find success performing more mellow tones catering to a very different kind of audience later in their careers.

A performer with any kind of following eventually finds his or her niche. But those that embrace the form they have the most affinity for from the beginning tend to get there sooner. Toronto based singer-songwriter Basia Lyjak is intent upon building a name in the recording industry by being herself above all else. There is much appeal in her to recommend such a stratagem.  Her parents set her off the right foot in life and gave her a musical education schooled in the classics. Of course "the classics," in Basia’s household did not just refer to Chopin, they also included Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath among a massive catalogue of other classic rock acts featured in the impressive LP collection owned by her parents.

It is however that which she has cultivated on her own musically which shines through most prominently in her work. It is why if she were to sing in choir with one hundred voices most of the audience would hear her within that sea of sound and be drawn to her voice. Like an insatiable mongrel assimilating various vocal styles (especially the darkening of the vowels) she honors no specific format but draws from many. Her sensual Slavic looks and powerful yet melodious singing are punctuated with an undeniable charisma. She gives vocal performances that are so dynamic and intense they evoke Janis Joplin and Maggie Bell. But she has the added advantage of superior vocal range and resonance. She is also rousing and effective in live performance and able to engage the most fickle audiences over the course of a concert.

The result is a performer of great vocal talent who also leaves the unique imprint of her own femininity, sensuality, and steely intensity all over her music. Few amongst her contemporaries can sell a song with similar conviction or emote as openly. The extroverted sincerity leaves a deep impression.

This Venus in a Motley Crue tank top and ripped jeans unreservedly refers to her music as "Chick Rock" and her new EP Writings on the Wall embraces a rough-edged feel truthful to the term. She finds a certain beauty in rawness and it comes through in her sound. Yet technical sophistication is not a casualty to it. Indeed the balance evident in each track betrays the enormous amount of work, which must have gone into the EPs production. While there is an undeniable consistency in the energy of the performances on each track there is also the added element of a variety of musical influences. Ms.Lyjak’s influences embrace an eclectic range outside of hard rock and power pop. The smorgasbord gently nudges boundaries between genres but remains within a hard rock/power pop structure.

The familiar rhythm section drive gives the overall melodic structure a kind of depth that lesser producers and recording engineers might fail to capture properly. Having heard Ms.Lyjak and her band perform live I think I can safely say that the sounds which emanate from the EP are faithful to those played onstage.

Another noticeable trait of the recording is that it is in line with the tradition of album rock. An adept and cutting edge musical performer does not necessarily mean one who has turned her back on a proven format more prominent in the past than today. The temptation may be to look to catchy sounding tracks such as the fourth one called "Torn" and single them out as some critics have. But it is just one track and to consider it on its own is to peruse just one piece of the puzzle. The entire meticulously crafted EP is a statement heard best within the context that has been set by the order of tracks first. The individual listener will better be able to judge which tracks are most relevant to them personally after having heard all of them in sequence.

Writings on the Wall is a vibrant statement of a young woman coming into the prime of her life and finding her own distinctive voice utilising the language of music. Aside from the pleasure of hearing the sound which she has cultivated her new EP also gives us the thrill of watching positive evolution as unique talent is further mined from the vast potential shown in previous recordings.

Yet in creating something of such quality Basia Lyjak has left herself with two challenges for her next project. Can she equal the standard she has set with Writings on the Wall? Can she perhaps even exceed the standard she has set with Writings on the Wall?

Those who have followed the respective music industry odysseys of Brian Adams and Tom Petty among other acts know that a performer can plateau before they or anyone else see it coming. It is only the very best among musical performers who offer sublime variation to what they have done rather than recycled versions of it and get better.

Were I to speculate on what Ms. Lyjak will do, my inclination would be to say that she will produce music with even greater sophistication over time.

Those of us who are taking an interest in this performer will not have long to wait to find out. A brand new Basia Lyjak song, of many she has composed with the reknowned Kyle Riabko is currently being recorded and produced by Brian Moncarz, of Whirlwind Sound Studios.

"I’m excited to be debuting this song live next month at the ‘Shoe" Says Bas referring to Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern where she will be performing on Thursday, November 1st, 2007.

Those who like what they hear that night will be also be able to catch her at the Remembrance Day concert on November 11th in Downsview Park.

I, for one, can’t wait! Jason

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