- Lys Guillorn Increases Visibility Without Sacrificing Mystique
There was a time when Lys Guillorn seemed like one of Connecticut’s most elusive singers and songwriters. Despite a fairly steady gig schedule, there were long gaps between recordings: Guillorn broke up the decade that stretched from her mesmerizing self-titled album to the 2013 follow-up, “Winged Victory,” with just one three-song EP, and a compilation of demos, covers and oddities.
Since then, thankfully, she’s been rather more visible, with a regular stream of music. Guillorn has been particularly busy this year. In March, she released a five-song EP, “I’m a Boy,” comprising four originals and, for the title track, a cover of the Who. This week Guillorn releases “How to Make a Mountain,” her half of a split single with another Connecticut act, No Line North.
“How to Make a Mountain” is a stately folk song showcasing Guillorn’s rootsy side. She plays banjo, backed by airy, pastoral keyboards, vocal harmonies and a trebly, overdriven electric guitar part that becomes more prominent as the song progresses. (No Line North’s contribution, “Dirty Holiday,” is a chugging rocker sweetened with distinctive violin.)
“How to Make a Mountain” stands in contrast to “I’m a Boy,” which captures the lean sound of Guillorn’s live band: Julie Beman on keyboards, organ and backing vocals, Eric Bloomquist on bass and backing vocals, and Peter Riccio on drums. The songs have an old-school garage-rock feel, thanks to the pulsing keys on “Something,” the galloping beat and churning guitars of “Nothing to it” and the bold singsong melody of “Boylesque.”
Guillorn playfully upends the narrative perspective of the Who’s 1966 single “I’m a Boy,” which Pete Townshend wrote from the perspective of a male child whose family treats him as a girl. Guillorn (presumably) singing it as a girl insisting she’s a boy adds a different texture to a classic tune from the Who’s early, weird, quintessentially British work. “I prefer to leave things to interpretation, but I was thinking a lot about identity issues — gender, sexuality, religion,” Guillorn says in the one-sheet. “Things I struggled with in my teens and 20s. But the tone is kind of tongue-in-cheek.”
Her sporadic release of new music created a sort of mystique around Guillorn, if such a sensibility can exist around a local artist you’d bump into at shows or at record stores. Picking up the pace recently hasn’t broken the spell so much as enhanced it. Getting to hear new stuff more frequently is a reminder of how widely her taste ranges, and what seems like an almost restless desire to do something different next time. It makes you wonder what else she’s capable of doing, and all the more eager to hear it.