While U.K. singer-songwriter Lyla Foy’s 2013 EP, Shoestring, was confident and, if nothing else, steady in its muted wistfulness and delicate, spare instrumentation, one couldn’t help but feel emotionally underwhelmed by it. The consistency in tone and song structure announced Foy’s style, but it also made the music feel pocket-sized and one-dimensional, like it would be served best on an indie movie soundtrack or as the background music to halcyon Sunday chores. The EP felt like a great complement to something rather than an invigorating stimulus unto itself.
Foy’s full-length debut, however, pulsates with her languid, satiny voice, demonstrating how the nuances of vocal inflection and timbre can deepen and enrich entire songs, steeping them in sensuousness and mystery. In some instances, Foy bides her time during the verses, content to sing faintly over shimmering lo-fi waves of bass and drums. But when the chorus comes, the lull is deliberately shattered with her sudden shift into deep, affecting emotional registers. The song structures are savvier and more manipulative here than on Shoestring. Foy knows that up to this point her greatest strength has been setting her vocals over minimalist instrumentals to strike a very specific mood. In Mirrors the Sky, she conjures that same quixotic, vaguely plaintive mood, but interrupts it with perfectly placed emotional blows to create a more cathartic, and complete, listening experience.
With her torpidly romantic melodies and angelic, versatile voice, Foy’s album hearkens back to previous generations of female singer-songwriters without ever resorting to mimicry. On opener “Honeymoon,” her full-bodied belting and unabashed emotional exposure recalls Sarah McLachlan, only switching out the dramatic guitars and pianos for gauzy digital melodies. On “Rumour,” Foy ditches her heady brand of ethereal melodrama for folk-guitar strumming, paying rather explicit homage to the eerie balladry of Jenny Lewis circa Rabbit Fur Coat. Lead single “Feather Tongue” best exhibits just how thoroughly Foy’s sparkling, synth-laden fantasias can coalesce with her gorgeously subtle vocal range, the electronic beats parting for her like a synthetic sea. As “Feather Tongue” definitively establishes, it’s Foy’s voice—hushed and mellow enough for this synth-pop era, but also stirring and dexterous enough to transcend it—that can flourish in and even transform any sonic environment or genre simulacrum.