Album: Marketa Irglová – LILA review

by Phil Scarisbrick

A globe-traversing record that takes stock of what made her the woman she is today, The Swell Season’s Marketa Irglová’s return unpacks her life to stunning effect

A lot has changed for Marketa Irglová since she last released an album. In the eight years since Muna, she got married, had three children and took on a whole new life. Trying to balance her work as an artist with her commitments as a mother and wife can appear complex. While they sit beside each other as independent directions, they also feed into each other, sometimes fuelling each other, while sometimes making the other more difficult. Despite the long absence, Irglova has been constantly working on new music in the intermittent period at the studio she built with husband, Mio Thorisson, culminating in new album, LILA.

Born in the Czech Republic, and now residing in Iceland, Irglová has travelled the globe over the last fifteen years or so. The subtle Irish twang in her voice is a permanent reminder of the music that catapulted her into our lives. These experiences have clearly seeped into her music – with the record teeming with folk sounds from across the globe; having a Czech guitarist (Peter Moc), Finnish string player (Marja Gaynor) and Venezuelan percussionist (Manuel Barreto) only adds to this.

From the opening notes of Love Stayed With Me, we get evidence of Irglová’s incredible ear for arrangement, with finger-picked guitar, vocals and a variety of other instruments growing, caressing each other as if vines racing up the side of a house trying to catch the sun. Girl From A Movie, is possibly the most introspective look at her life as a musician to date, as she tries to reconcile what her life promised, and what it became. ‘One of these days you’ll see me on TV / Maybe by then you’ll realise what you had in me / And you’ll be sorry you let me go’ she sings on the achingly beautiful chorus – a clear sign that whatever her life was meant to be after her Oscar-winning success, what it became is something wonderful.

Lead single, My Roots Go Deep, again looks back, as she analyses the journey she has been on, while ‘getting good at being still’. Again, the track is furnished with an incredibly affecting chorus that will loop through your conscience once it has touched you. Elsewhere, tracks such as Alchemy of Love – with its vocal stabs providing an anchor for Irglová to pronounce ‘You give it wings and let it soar’ – and The Season build on these themes to really drive home how important they are.

When I grow up, I want to be my own true self,’ sings a child’s voice at the start of closer, Know Yourself. The line perhaps encapsulating the album better than any other. In Richard Flanagan’s Booker prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North, he wrote ‘A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else’. Perhaps there’s something in that, but on this wonderful album, we hear that Irglová’s past, warts and all, is what makes her a mother, a wife and an incredible artist in 2022.

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