4. Mice (Live at Tooting Tram and Social)
5. Mute (Live at The Troubadour)
If you’re a Hong Kong-born, London-trained, folk-pop artist, whose folk traditions and pop sensibilities do you adopt? Kristina Lao’s debut EP makes the case that borders don’t matter a bit.
From the tone, pacing and melody of Mice, the title track, it’s obvious why Lao has been compared with Tracy Chapman. It’s also just about possible to detect the lilt that has drawn comparisons with Dolores O’Riordan, although Alanis Morissette is more of a stretch. In common with all three, she has plenty to say. Machine-gun delivery and comprehensive lyric sheets suggest a poetry first, music later approach.
A live version of Mice, also on the EP, is considerably more engaging and less of an assault. Note to producers: sometimes the world is better off without doubled vocals, fiddly counter-melodies and cheesy percussion. Augmentation unnecessary. Less is more.
The second track, Mute, is a predictable slice of girl-with-guitar pop-empowerment. The live version, although less twee, can’t improve the song but does testify to Lao’s skills. She has chops, vocally and on guitar, and she can nail both disciplines simultaneously. The final track, Different, is the most likeable offering here, with cute lyrics, friendly pacing and straightforward presentation. If Lao goes big, this one will have fans reaching for their lighters.
Despite her impressive skills, Kristina Lao lacks the razor’s edge that made people sit up and take notice of her comparates. In some ways, there’s a feeling that she’s still figuring what to say and whether she really belongs. That said, the right stuff is certainly here. As an emerging artist – perhaps an emerging star – she might just want to be careful how she collaborates.
To find out more about Kristina Lao, visit her here.