She Makes War is the multi-instrumentalist project put together by solo act Laura Kidd, but it might be that she’s doing too much. Little Battles is Kidd’s second full length album under the moniker, and I do have to admit it’s a welcome surprise to get to review one musician trying their hands at multiple instruments in a weird sort of way, much like Adam Young’s Owl City. Kidd’s a self-proclaimed political activist, and according to Kidd’s website, Little Battles was recorded around the corner from the Hackney riots. She also claims her songs as romantic, and that the project of She Makes War is constructed in the category of gloom-pop. Kidd has also been on tour with bands such as Tricky, A-Ha, The Penelopes, I Blame Coco, The Young Punx and Alex Parks, and seems to enjoy general quirky things such as Star Wars storm troopers and polar bears. Now, if you’ve read up to this point and find yourself going, ‘Ok this is all nice but what on earth is going on with the music’, you find yourself in the exact same position I hold as the reviewer. Little Battles is a quirky project full of a lot of spirit, but it seems too preoccupied with using the most diverse instruments and the heaviest themes to worry about the composition of the music, causing the album to miss the mark as a whole.
It’s not that Little Battles doesn’t work because it’s an album that is conventionally different from normal music. The more albums I get to hear that can pull that off, the better. Yet, there’s a lot of other elements given priority here. Nearly every song has some heavy thematic element lyrically; some involving common ideas such as paranoia, some as detailed as “singing the haunting details of Mexico’s lost daughters”. The songs that are the heaviest usually are the ones that lack a lot of other composition. The albums track “Delete” is described as an “a capella extravaganza” but there’s not much of an attempt to harmonize or even duet between the voices, as much as just overlay. Other songs like “May Our Daughters Return Home” is overproduced and yet all at once static. There are highlights on the album though. “Magpie Heart” actually reminds me of a spunkier Sheryl Crow, and though I wasn’t originally thrilled with the lyrics, the song “Blue” has actually quite grown on me. Even “Never Was” hit me on a cool level that gives me a lot of hope for whatever future albums bring. When Kidd makes songs like “In This Boat” her featured single, I’m even more hopeful for what’s coming next. There’s still something too complicated, too hastily assembled from middle to top without worrying about a basic bottom, with the album as a whole.
It’s not the direction Kidd is going in that I’m skeptical of; the more a musician can play with their tools and make them work for the album, the better it is for all parties involved. I have to wonder if the focus is just on the wrong thing. Kidd is talented, there’s no denying that. The album might have just been too big of an undertaking, the idea to save the world a little too mighty, and some of the more basic elements were left on the cutting room floor. Unlike other albums I’ve reviewed in a bit of a negative light, I’m looking forward to whatever comes next from She Makes War and trust that, at the very least, it’ll be an instrumental experience.
Vixen of Vocabulary who likes to wax poetic about the world of street art, music,busking and all things indie. She has earned two college degrees, traveled extensively and written three books. She is currently finishing the multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple Art-Style Book, to be released in NYC, Spring 2013.