The Lamb reveals itself song by song to be a mature and beautifully crafted record. Songwriter and guitarist Lillie West was emboldened by a vision to create a meaningful work that reflects how her life has changed since Lala Lala’s debut. The 12 tracks represent an opportunity to absolve prior transgressions and meditate on how to truly live from here on out.
“It was intentional writing in a way that I had never done before,” West says. “I had never written in that way before, so it was interesting to see that I could do it.”
It’s a radical shift from the Chicago-based band’s first album, Sleepyhead, released in 2016.
“I was writing emotionally only, but I didn’t consider the recording process,” West says. “It just happened.”
The Lamb is different, mainly because West, 24, is different. She’s becoming sober, which she describes as a decision that she has to make every single day.
“In some ways it was challenging,” West explains of the process of going sober. “In some ways it will always be challenging. It was easy in that I didn’t have a choice anymore.”
West artfully sifts through these changes in “Water Over Sex.” Her ethereal voice glides over the words, “You think I’m good / Well I want to be gooder,” and she rejoices in the fact that she is “suddenly full / here is belonging.” Guiding the pulsing guitar, West traces her continuing transformation and finds comfort in progressing from her self-destructive past to her honest present.
It would be a disservice to reduce West’s path to sobriety and wellness to simply black and white. There will still be days where she struggles with addiction and times where she becomes even more paranoid than before.
“It’s not pretty or absolute,” she says.
Now, West is able siphon out her soul to explore the nuances of her sprawling feelings. She feels loneliness. She feels surprise. She feels love. Acutely self-aware, she connects and deciphers these intense emotions throughout the album to explore how far she has come and how much more she has to go.
But despite her resolve to make herself better, West grapples with being able to extend that wish onto those she loves. The driving chorus of “When You Die” is in essence a mantra: “Keep my friends safe night and day / Keep my friends safe now and always.” West simultaneously recognizes the security of a deep-seated desire to save one’s friends from harm but also the futility of it.
The album is bound by introspection such as this and is dotted with animal imagery, as if West has stitched together her own book of nursery rhymes.
One such song, “Dove,” is tender yet chilling to the bone. West’s voice climbs from a low murmur to raspy angelic heights as she sings: “I did the right thing, / And for what? / For some prettiness / That I don’t believe.” After experiencing heartbreaking loss, West manifests her pain in “Dove” to make it the most emotionally devastating yet undeniably the most beautiful song on the record.
The most distinct symbol, though, comes from the succinct album title itself: the lamb. The title ties together the storied strings of loss, love and, perhaps most importantly, metamorphosis.
“The album is about me relearning how to be a person after becoming sober,” West says. “I’m a lamb. I’m a baby sheep discovering other things for the first time.”