LITHUANIA: Laukinis šuo dingo - Alina Orlova
An experimental album that fails as often as it succeeds is just saved by Orlova's unique vocal talents
Born to a Polish Lithuanian father and a Russian mother in what is now modern-day Lithuania, Alina Orlova’s music reflects those diverse cultural origins, with her music often described as Baltic folk pop. She often sings in Lithuanian, Russian and English, which is also the case on this album which as two songs in Russian and three in English, all the while incorporating elements of the Baltic daina vocal music in her singing, which is definitely the most impressive aspect of the album. Her voice is clear and sharp, and it calls immediate attention to itself in a properly distinctive manner, and it is her voice that has won her plaudits for her music, which I completely understand. And yet, while it is technically accomplished, and Orlova is a good musician, the album leaves me somewhat unimpressed. It is clear that Orlova has talent and skill, can appreciate elements of it, yet as a whole, I feel unmoved, which is odd considering how impactful her voice can be.
“Her trilling vocal style took me a while to get used to, but after a while I was able to tune into its idiosyncrasies.”
Laukinis šuo dingo (The Wild Dog Dingo in English) is a moderately successful album on its own terms. Orlova very much has an audience, it’s just that I’m probably not a part of it. She has been lauded for her musical style yet I found it somewhat grating. That said, there are aspects I did like. For example, when the musical style is stripped back and clean, with her vocals taking centre stage, like on songs such as Nesvarbu or Lijo, I enjoyed the album a lot more. Her trilling vocal style took me a while to get used to, but after a while I was able to tune into its idiosyncrasies. There’s also a nice amount of experimentation here. No-one could accuse her of playing it safe, that’s for sure. The song Vaiduokliai has a French accordion element to it that works nicely, and Zeme, Sukis Greitai has a rhythm akin to an Argentinian tango, which is a pleasant change of pace from the ponderous, rather sombre mood of the rest of the album. Transatlantic Love is also a rather upbeat tune with a plinky plonky acoustic guitar sound, not dissimilar to early Kate Nash, though it’s less pop oriented. What brings it down for me is the unnecessary inclusion of what sounds like an old man growling several times during the under two-minute track. I just don’t see the point of it.
There are more of those strange excesses on this album that I just cannot get along with. For example, why anyone ever thought the English nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star ever needed a bizarre reimagining as a gloomy folk song is way beyond me. It’s almost comical in its construction, but I’m sure that the point wasn’t to make me laugh. And yet that’s what it is, in a way. When you take a song that childish and take it seriously, it’s comical. There are experimental, almost ambient songs such as Nojus, which I didn’t mind, but neither did I feel that they added much to the whole experience of the album. The album is short, and as such it does not overstay its welcome, but equally it does not make the most of its time. Short albums can have huge impact, you only need look at an album like Youssou N’Dour’s Immigrés. 34 minutes, but makes its mark. This felt like a selection of powerful indie folk pop songs mixed in with some poorly thought-out elements of experimentation that did not need to be there. So, ultimately, my views on the album are thoroughly mixed. In some ways the experimentation I found admirable and interesting, in other cases laughable and unenjoyable. Her voice is always impressive, and that is what makes me more amenable to the album. If her voice was more ordinary, I might not be this generous towards it. Nevertheless, the indie folk tracks are mostly worth your time, in my view, and they save the album from being what I would consider a failure. Instead, it’s a flawed album with moments to admire and enjoy, and others to wonder what happened there.