V.V. Lightbody followed her 2018 debut “Bathing Peach,” with a break-up and breakthrough sophomore LP Make a Shrine or Burn It – a masterclass in self-reflection and female autonomy. Produced herself, the album finds the singer/songwriter folding her oceanic, nap rock sound into the musical kaleidoscope of Laurel Canyon folk-pop and floaty, improvisational psychedelia; inviting the listener into the complex yet controlled chaos of it all.
An album of lingering farewells and cautiously optimistic beginnings punctuated by a deceptive wit, Lightbody – a.k.a. Vivian McConnell – turns her attention inward, exploring what it means to be with yourself after being with another; trading abstract, third-party narratives for those more poignant and conversational. With the June 2019 release of lead single “Car Alarm,” a siren song jokingly prophesying death and legacy under the guise of horniness, it was apparent that McConnell was in the midst of transformation. Her lower register taking on a smoky, growl-like quality, she sounded ready to pounce; her warbly guitar swirling into a slick, bluesy solo as opposed to more languid, previous singles
Recorded at noted Chicago recording studios including Decade Studios, Public House and Pallet Sound, as well as in her own bedroom (extremely true to form), McConnell produced the album herself and teamed up with the city’s go-to engineer Dave Vettraino (Lala Lala, Makaya McCraven, Deeper, Melkbelly). Building upon lush harmonies and textured rhythms – featuring Ohmme’s Sima Cunningham on vocals and Macie Stewart on violin, and saxman Wills Mckenna among others – “Make a Shrine or Burn It” is an adventurous uptick in the dreamy, signature V.V. Lightbody soundscape.
Her woozy romanticism is a bit rougher around the edges, she’s found a new freedom in impermanence, lessons in mistakes and power in not making the same ones twice. With the climactic exhale “Offers,” she delivers a sweeping admonishment of gendered expectations and contortion of the female form. Culminating in the shadowy, stripped, cliff-hanger closer “USPS” – she dares to ask the question she can only hope to receive an answer to. At its end, “Make a Shrine or Burn It” soundtracks a journey of accepting where one chapter ends, and another begins – whether one’s ready or not.