Ionnalee is back, the miracle has been made. One of the most visionary artists of our time has returned with a brand new studio album, “Everyone afraid to be forgotten”, the third being published under the moniker Ionnalee, the sixth if we include the brilliant episodes released under the creative Iamamiwhoami’s aegis . It was surprisingly given to the world on the 16th of February via her own record label To whom it may concern, distributed by Kobalt.
Fired up by her usual, nowadays well known, originality, Lee’s new artistic chapter was launched along with an accompanying film produced by Lee and John Strangh. Far more than just a quirk, wonder-inducing mosaic of music performances (that hardly ever are complete, they’re mostly fragmentary), it marks the umpteenth brilliant visual alliance with Comme de Garçons, by which the songwriter had previously worn the design during the phantasmagoric Concert in Blue.
“A reflection of an anxious age where everyone keeps raising their voice louder, where a song isn’t enough, where individuality is sold and promoted as products on social media” Lee stated about her new project. An attempt to step aside from star system’s hunger of immortality and immortalize the true, uncompromising essence of her music. A spirit which is to music as The Hanged Man is to Tarot cards. A creature suspended, upside-down, rooted in the underworld, hanging on the tree of its own will. Isn’t that the perfect Ionnalee’s description? More to come: with its yellow halo showing spiritual attainment, the card is the archetype to meditate on to help break old patterns and restricting habits.
“Embrace the creature I’m becoming/ I inhale with frozen lungs/ Inside it moves, I feel it pounding/ And the world at the tip of my tongue” not for nothing is the final verse of the opening song, “Watches watches”, detailing Lee’s departure from old echoes to dive into new, invigorating dimensions. Her new solo act since 2014 BLUE is finally on the stage. And it’s the usual, refreshing spotted synth hail, not indulging to mainstream flattery, keeping epic and thumping choruses that stick to our minds. The same “Watches watches watches” repetitive, mantra-like spell is once again an optical transposition. Through the compulsive attention artists are daily given, the music’s striking in the same way. Ionnalee, after all, is not just a melodious, flute-like incredible voice. She’s an all-round- artist always confirming her timeless talent.
Like plenty of other songs from the album, the first track is believed to be a rework of unreleased track from her early work, especially from “Bounty”, which was alternately titled “Watch me as I go”.
Likewise “Work”, seventh single chosen and released without announcements, that was originally conceived to be part of “Kin”, but only many years ago has seen the light (and been finalized with a proper chorus). Even in this occasion, from the same dazzling school of Charli XCX, Allie X and Fever Ray, the rhythm is happily desecrating, a chaotic blur of different, mixed tempi.
There’s a lot of room for unforgettable lyrics, at this round. The dazzling uptempo of “Joy” leads with a poetic account of rediscovered happiness after dark years. “Join the loud and heartfelt choir/ This is the sound of joy/ Coming from my innermost/ Sprung from north, coast to coast”. It’s pretty impossible not to think about Kate Bush’s “Lily”, about her mysterious yet vital circle of fire.
But Ionnalee is absolutely impossible to capture – or define. And conscious of her escaping essence, she fiercely puts in music her manifesto, by the upbeat “Not human”, in which she chooses “treacherous” as an adjective for the second time after “joy”. It’s evident that the real danger the artist feels is to lose herself, more than her popularity. The human, natural fear of being encaged in boxes labeled with fancy names. “How do you see your life in time?/And is it worth all of these blisters?/ These broken limbs are worn and tired/ But our words are not yet written/ Our ember still burning inside”.
“Temple” is the answer to all expectations: freedom is not negotiable. The emancipation not just to be meant as creative control upon personal skills, but also – and most of all – as the human, unchallengeable right to follow secret, unpopular patterns. From the co-producer role, in fact, our beloved Ionnalee has slightly became an excellent producer herself, capable of generating impressive musical chiaroscuro effects. That’s why when she goes pure, crude pop, she stays herself, in her best vests: “Samaritan” unequivocally asserts that she doesn’t remember promising her life and soul to bring the audience bliss. “When all this is done, it’s done”, she declares as a metrical ultimatum.
A promise to remain unique that doesn’t go lost at all: “Dunes of sand” wonderfully marries Jamie Irrepressible’s vocals in a mystical crescendo, “Here is the warning” is a slow-motion farytale that crystallizes Lee’s beauty in 3.37 minutes of mere enchantment, “Memento” recollects some previous dark, positive energy resulted by Clares Björklund’s shared Iamamiwhoami project. Going back to the film, which is the undeniable representation of the record creative hummus, Ionnalee had felt imprisoned for too many years, within the same room, painfully illuminated by people’s expectations. Now that the door has finally been opened, the brilliant voice winding through precious verses such as “Your shallow truth/ Fractures and distorts our self views/ and my tether beat/ echoes in the minds of a few” (Simmer down) is still there to declare the standpoint of a rare creative process, a truthful breathing thing existing out of will and not for commercial purposes. We always need these magic exceptions, in music.
WATCHES WATCHES — 3:44
JOY — 4:20
WORK — 3:36
LIKE HELL — 3:34
NOT HUMAN — 5:17
TEMPLE — 4:18
SAMARITAN — 4:21
DUNES OF SAND (ft. Jamie of The Irrepressibles) — 4:44
BLAZING — 4:05
SIMMER DOWN — 4:09
HERE IS A WARNING — 3:36
GONE — 4:37
MEMENTO (ft. Barbelle) — 4:25
HARVEST (ft. TR/ST) — 5:02
FOLD — 5:39