L'Rain Channels Grief Into Beauty In Her Debut Album

L'Rain Channels Grief Into Beauty In Her Debut Album

In an exclusive for V, R&B songstress L'Rain takes us track-by-track through her debut album, dropping tomorrow.

In an exclusive for V, R&B songstress L'Rain takes us track-by-track through her debut album, dropping tomorrow.

Text: Christina Cacouris

How does one cope with the loss of your mother? For R&B songstress Taja Cheek—aka L'Rain—channeling her grief into a creative output was the key to survival. Her debut album L'Rain, a dedication to her late mother, premieres tomorrow: ahead of its release, we asked Taja to take us through the LP track-by-track. Give the sentimental and sweet L'Rain a listen exclusively on V before it drops tomorrow, and read about Taja's inspirations behind each song below.

1. Heavy (But Not in Wait)

A song for, about, and despite my friend, Alex, who plays drums among other contributions to the record. He's arguably my worst enemy, but also, arguably, my biggest fan. He talked me out of scrapping the record many times, and he's talked me off of every other musical cliff.

All of our friends have an elaborate, admittedly nerdy, system of "sonic memes". We used to play this song's main guitar riff at rehearsals to troll each other and interrupt each other's sentences. After months, the riff started to take on a life of its own and became slightly more serious, somehow morphing into this song.

2. Stay, Go (Go, Stay)

It's a bit like a gospel song lovingly massaged into a blender—sporadic tambourine rattles, a Hammond organ roaring in and out of focus, and you might even hear me shouting in the background at the end. I recorded this last spoken part in my room with the lights off, almost like I was praying. I haven't listened to that monologue since that day I recorded it. I don't want or need to. It's meant to be felt, not heard.

3. Bat

There are four people who know what this song is about. (We all know who we are). When others listen to it, I hope they feel the same wistful nostalgia that I felt when I was writing it. It's a weird and simple song. At it's core, it's about trying to catch a bat that's somehow made its way indoors.

I created the flute-like arpeggiated sound with an instrument I bought on the internet ages ago. I nicknamed it Turtle, and carried it everywhere for years. There's something satisfying about the combination of two anthropomorphized things existing in close proximity. One, a song, transformed into a winged mammal, and another, an instrument, mutated into a slow-moving reptile.

4. Alive and a Wake

This song is written around a melody I've been playing off and on for about 8 years. I have demos in countless bizarre versions—a psych rock meditation, a fast Van Halen meets Bobby McFerrin funk song, and also stripped down as a lullaby. The melody is so ingrained in my head, my fingers will automatically play it if I'm around any instrument with strings. I'll sing it if I'm alone in my apartment or walking to the subway. It's sort of like my theme song.

5. Benediction

I recorded this walking down the street in my neighborhood. I was attracted to the juxtaposition of sounds: the devotional chanting of a church congregation with the casual joyfulness of a group of people hanging out, just steps away. In many ways, it seemed to encapsulate the mood of the whole record. After walking half way down the block, I decided to retrace my steps and record it.

6. A Toes (Shelf Inside Your Head)

The name of the song is taken from a weird nickname I had for my friend Tiff many years ago. She's an incredible songwriter and I admire her craft so much. ​​This song is an ode to her.​

7. Go, Stay (Stay, Go)

"Stay, Go (Go, Stay)" is a song about indecisiveness and duality, so I felt compelled to include some sort of complement to that song somewhere on the record: the yang to its yin.

8. July 14th, 2015

Despite how horrible July 14, 2015 was, this message was a ray of light. I saved it for years because listening to it would always bring me joy. People often make assumptions about who they think is speaking. That's great. Ultimately, it should be whoever anyone wants it to be.

9. Which Fork / I'll Be

I thought a lot about Father John Misty and his sense of humor when I was arranging this song. I laugh every time I listen to it, and I hope other people do too. The disco ending is completely absurd, especially as the culmination of the wild emotional trajectory of the entire record. There is a logic, though. If you know me well and you ask me how I'm doing, I'll usually reply with something along the lines of "life is suffering" and chuckle with a wide toothy smile. This song, if not the whole album, is a meditation on that sentiment. Sometimes it feels impossible to be alive on this planet, and in this country, and in this skin: freaks and flukes of nature and systems that are and were built to exclude. But the sun still rises and sets. I am (we are) still here. Life is work, and it's also a gift.

There's a secret track at the end of "Which Fork" called "I'll Be". The vocal line from this song appears reversed on the first song on the record, so the lyrics and melody are obscured. On this hidden final track, the lyrics and melody are revealed; everything comes full circle. Life always unsettles into entropy, but on my record, I can feign order.

L'Rain is out tomorrow via Astro Nautico. Pre-order here.

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