New band of the day – No 1,062: Kyla La Grange

Fans of Florence and the darkly dramatic will love the emotional bloodletting in the work of this Watford witch

Hometown: Watford.

The lineup: Kyla La Grange (vocals, guitar).

The background: We're always being told to go and catch such-and-such an act live if we're procrastinating about whether to cover them, and often we do, only to find little to change our minds. This week, though, we went to see Kyla La Grange at the Lexington in London (as did Ellie Goulding, checking out her competition) and she did make a little more sense, and reveal elements we missed on record. It was nice to see some effort go into the stage set – we didn't take notes and it was a bit late so we can't remember it all, but we vaguely recall an attempt to create a sort of magical witchy ambience, with trees and lights and stuff.

It suited the mood of the music. We're in angsty female rock-lite territory with La Grange, with tinges of folk and hints of goth. This is terrain that has been well trodden by many of late: Anna Calvi, Zola Jesus, Claire Maguire, Paper Crows, Oh Land and Niki and the Dove have all been here or hereabouts, hoping to grab some of that post-Florence action, trying to find a way to accommodate Björk/Kate Bush-style quirks and PJ Harvey/Cat Power grit.

Florence's songs about gouging out enemy eyes and burying boyfriends clearly made an impression on La Grange, who has a track, Vampire Smile, about getting drunk and biting some hapless fellow's neck. Early articles about her tell us with barely concealed amusement that she comes from Watford, as though dark, intense music can't be made by people from commuter towns where the populace on a Friday night tends to roam through the town centre in packs, looking for fights (and the men are quite scary as well). We'd have thought Watford was the ideal breeding ground for an artist such as La Grange, who grew up on a council estate in South Oxhey and won a place at Cambridge University, where she studied Philosophy. Isolated, fearful, confused – in a way it was the perfect breeding ground for the aspiring confessional artiste intent on using her "savagely passionate, 21st-century torch songs", as they've been called, as an excuse for emotional bloodletting. "They're all about messing things up and getting sad about it," she has said. "What I want to do is tap into that feeling of being really fucked up." Yup, Watford will do that to you every time. Move a few miles up the road to Hemel Hempstead, Kyla, and you'll be writing classics in no time.

Meanwhile, she's giving good husky'n'haunted. Been Better, the new single, makes her sound like she looks – a young Stevie Nicks or Marianne Faithfull. Her debut single, Walk Through Walls, released on a label called Noir (there's a clue right there), was equally rousing and anthemic. Once again, we are moved to muse on the commercial viability of it all, and to wonder whether La Grange can succeed where Claire Maguire, say, failed to capitalise on all the promises made on her behalf (and we helped switch on the hype machine). But the fact is, if you like brooding, witchily beguiling rock with a keen sense of the darkly dramatic, you'll love this.

The buzz: "A gorgeous voice and a soaring chorus, the kind that makes your heart swell a little bit" – The Guardian.

The truth: She's no Oxhey moron, she's the new witchy It girl.

Most likely to: Suck your blood.

Least likely to: Suck.

What to buy: Been Better b/w I Could Be was released this week by Chess Club.

File next to: Marianne Faithfull, Cat Power, Claire Maguire, Stevie Nicks.

Links:
Myspace = myspace.com/kylalagrange
Guardian artist page = Kyla la Grange

Friday's new band: Giorgio Tuma.

Contributor

Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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