Adia Victoria Spins a Southern Gothic Epic on Her Tremendous Sophomore Album 'Silences'

Photo courtesy of Canvasback Music

Silences is an album greater than the sum of its genre-related parts, a masterpiece of musical control and an outstanding next step for Adia Victoria as storyteller and singer alike.

Adia Victoria


22 February 2019

When a voice as fresh and distinct as Adia Victoria's comes along, it is a rare occasion. Rarer still is the advent of an original signature style that is both iconic and versatile. With 2016 full-length debut Beyond the Bloodhounds, Victoria established a strong artistic aesthetic, blending rock and roll grit, old-school blues, and gothic atmosphere, singing in a voice with the lyrical grace of a whisper and the raw power of a howl.

On her sophomore release Silences, Adia Victoria raises the stakes. As before, she draws from a sonic palette evocative of the American South, albeit a broader one; cosmopolitan notes of swing and jazz crooning add a measured quantity of polish and pop sensibilities to her rural folk sounds. It makes for a nice array of textures, and even the slickest moments have sharp edges, a complex profile from start to finish.

The said palette is as dark as ever; eerie strings and haunting background sounds open the album on track "Clean", where a breathy Victoria pronounces her killing and burial of God - a painlessly executed act of self-defense, she says. It's a bold metaphor for an artist raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist in small-town South Carolina, and as limber as Victoria's poetry is, she often reserves subtlety for the music itself. Her words, on the other hand, make waves.

"Bring Her Back" comes next, a gale-force dirge that decries the trappings of religious dogma and strikes back against the thought of blind submission to the power structures that take advantage of those who follow and promote systemic inequality. Throughout the song, Victoria's power seems to grow, a sea of reverb and percussion following the eerie serenity of her voice.

The tempo picks up on tracks like catchy "Pacolet Road", a rock and roll ode to unbridled freedom ("I always knew I'd be the first one to run 'round the world and back / And you can call me crazy, maybe, but hey, I'm proud of that") that invokes the devil as a metaphor for striking back against the intolerant status quos. Victoria soon finds herself in "The City", a mellow ode to the bittersweet relief of being able to get lost in an impersonal crowd. A brassy breeze blows through, and the track makes for a welcome break between frenzies.

More obvious highlights are the album's first two singles, "Different Kind of Love" and "Dope Queen Blues". On the former, Victoria delivers sensual sweetness, a shadowy chanteuse longing for intangible satisfaction. The latter, the album's penultimate cut, is Victoria as a character at her most desperate ("I keep a pistol in my pocket / Got a dagger hidden in my vest, yes / I've been dancing with the devil only trying to do my best, yet"), but also dangerously certain of her indestructibility ("I wanna break free from my body / Shaken loose my skin / 'Cause I had a thought: I am a god / Of this I am convinced") in a way that brings the album full circle. Musically, "Dope Queen Blues" is utterly memorable, a bluesy earworm of the highest order.

In between those landmarks, Victoria plays every card in her hand. "Devil's a Lie" has a slowed-down New Orleans jazz march vibe with an orchestral twist, while "The Needle's Eye" is largely bass and percussion ostinati behind legato note after legato note from Victoria. A swift, melancholy waltz, "Cry Wolf" lets the electric strings fade back as they break into rippling distortion; in the foreground, violins spin behind Victoria's laments. "Heathen" is a quiet, jazzy storm, while "Nice Folks" builds to a cyclone; both tear into the hypocrisy of polite society.

Broadly, the album to this point makes for a thematic chiasmus. Victoria sheds a stifling faith and the brutal oppression of a stagnant community, hastening to the opportunities of urban life. Over time, she grows disillusioned, choked by unwritten rules, and feels the brutal oppression of a stagnant community. No matter where she goes, the narrator feels like an outcast - and this leads us to the album's final moments. "Get Lonely" is a wistful look ahead to the open range, a synth-laced wish for open space once more. It's blissful, poignant, transcendent, and the perfect coda to Victoria's epic.

Beyond the Bloodhounds had to make a quick statement, to establish Victoria in a hurry. With Silences, she can finally take her time and show not only what she's made of, but what she is capable of making herself into. This is an album greater than the sum of its genre-related parts, a masterpiece of musical control and an outstanding next step for Adia Victoria as storyteller and singer alike.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.