Album Review: Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel, the other sewing a garden (Saddle Creek)

Ada Lea's 'one hand on the steering wheel...' Review

To me the lead single ‘Hurt’ is the musical personification of heartbreak. I think that anyone who listens to this tune can sympathize, or at least tear up a little bit, remembering how their first love ended. Maybe yours ended as a mutual agreement and you look back fondly from time to time? Maybe it ended badly and is one of your biggest regrets? Maybe it ended on the field behind Sainsbury’s near Heaton park? Nonetheless, this tune takes these messy feelings, adds mellow guitar chords and soulful strings to it, and then throws them at you like a bin bag full of your clothes out the bedroom window.

The rest of the album is as impressive. Using soft, yet brittle guitar textures, lo-fi production and the essence of her very soul, Ada Lea delivers an astonishingly colorful second album. With angelic vocals nestled between a blanket of swelling strings and 60’s-esque drums, she lays bare her thoughts in this beautifully presented album.

‘Backyard’ is an example of this, and has a childlike wonder about it. The gently plucked guitars are soft on your ears, while strings add vibrant color. As the song progresses, little piano lines and pizzicato strings flutter about in the background. Sonically sounding like a butterfly flying around your head. Ada does a brilliant job of titling this, encapsulating the sound of a garden through her choice to use lo fi production, but to be frank, this song is just really fucking pretty. I’ll leave you with my favorite line. Ada sings, “the stars couldn’t leave our backyard for as long as we’d ask them to stay, and they stayed, and they stayed.”

‘Orange’ is a big tune. Ada is very good at transitioning to different sections within her songs. There are a few different techniques she uses throughout the album that are most prevalent in this tune. For example, there is a key change in this song at 1:18. I feel like the key change is accentuated because just before this the song slows down slightly. It makes the song refreshing to listen to. The instrumentation in this song is constantly changing. One second you’re listening to what sounds like a surf rock guitar lead, a speaker rattling bass line and punchy drums. Ada will then completely flip the script and switch to wavy synths and sustained guitar chords covered in reverb. Excellent tune. 

To wrap things up, this album is just ace. Pure and simple. Some honorable mentions have to be ‘damn’, ‘violence’ and ‘my love 4 u is real’.  Throughout this album Ada Lea wears her heart on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to tell you some deep stories about all aspects of her life. Each song has the ability to enthrall you by the use of a beautifully sung story. The fun part is figuring out if the song is either gonna give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling or make you fucking bawl your eyes out. 

one hand steering the wheel the other sewing a garden is out via Saddle Creek Records on Friday September 24

Also Found In New Sounds Issue 3