Being a female, fronting a band, and writing your own lyrics is still pretty rare in 2014, or at least less common than the male counterpart. Alysha Brilla, Mississauga-born and Kitchener-bred, possesses all of these qualities. Making her further unique is a husky voice with hints of velvet that adds to her natural sexiness. A treasure of the Canadian music scene, you should get to know and cherish her music–and there is no better place to start than her 2013 album In My Head.
I wish I had heard of Alysha’s music ten months ago when I had most needed it, but as we say, better late than never. Upon listening to her for the first time, what struck me right away is that this young lady had managed to put words to feelings that I could only put tears on. So my first listen of In My Head kept me quite focused on myself internally, but it wasn’t long after that I decided to listen to it again. And again. And again.
Wow. Alysha Brilla: my new musical crush. Seriously, what a voice! It must be the way she transmits her emotions, with sincerity and an incredible charm; it hits your heart and gives you goosebumps. Listening to In My Head, it is clear that Alysha is a strong-minded women with a great sense of satire–and I’m not going to weigh my words, I absolutely love her music.
All of these ramblings are to prepare you for the opus that is In My Head, which overflows with tunes telling stories of love and loss, and doubles as a reassuring voice imploring you to stay positive no matter how damn depressed you are! After a dozen successive listens of this album, I felt like I had just read an entire book of mantras. Her music is the energizer you need, especially for those with broken hearts. Perhaps Alysha should take the title of Guru Brilla!
What makes In My Head especially crazy is how each of Alysha’s songs has its own special hook. Take the track “Never Gonna Get Me Back”, where the girl is just casually kicking her ex lover’s ass with cynical lyrics, ruthless frankness and banging musicality. It is this kind of approach that makes Alysha stand out in her craft; because after all, when it comes to getting over pain and sadness, what’s better than transforming them into your own creative, prosperous project?
The entire album keeps resonating in my head and I can’t seem to get enough of her empowering rhythms, spry choruses, and her mixing of string, brass and percussion instruments. In My Head is lively and full of regenerating power, and it makes me feel good! Its intimacy is relatable, and I find myself confidently singing along with the lyrics of songs like “Mark On Me”: “I was lost but now I am found / I am blind but now I see.” And trust me, listening to this album is cheaper and more efficient than therapy.
Let’s face it, most of us have experimented with the “I need two shots of something strong” stage, so I’m here cheering for Alysha’s modern storytelling. There is no way that tracks like “Lifted” or the trumpets in ‘Two Shots” won’t lift listeners’ spirits and encourage them to hit repeat. In “L.A. Hotel Room”, Alysha sings, “Love is bigger than your name on my chest on a tattoo”—and here in Toronto, everyone has at least one tattoo, so her cynicism becomes even more pointed and true.
I could go on with every single of the eleven tracks on In My Head, but by this point you’re probably wondering: when did her story start, and where does her talent come from? Well, the apple rarely falls far from the tree, as Alysha is the daughter of two musicians. With a Canadian mother and a Tanzanian father, she has been swaying to a mix of American jazz and reggae ever since early childhood. She grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, where she performed in various festivals during her teenage years, which would explain why she’s so naturally comfortable on stage.
Speaking of which, I strongly recommend that you see Alysha live with her band; she is a real performer by all means, and plays on both piano and guitar. I saw her show at the Royal Ontario Museum and she left me speechless and completely seduced. Not only is her voice spellbinding, but her attitude onstage is dazzling as well. In one amusing instance, she asked the audience to dance the Macarena, as a nostalgic callback to one of her old classmates in the audience (that’s what they used to dance to back in school)!
Another string to Alysha’s bow is her ability to adeptly cover classic artists such as Bob Marley, The Beatles or Ray Charles in the most simple but ravishing way. Her performance of “I’ve Got a Woman” at the ROM was absolutely killer. Just take in her acoustic rendition of “The Look of Love” here:
As a songwriter and producer, Brilla is brilliant, with her unique blend of genres making her an atypical musician with an unfathomable range of eclectic tastes. Alysha is a big listener of ‘40s jazz, yet she is also a huge reggae fan and a devotee of soul folk. In my opinion, her pure talent is off the scale.
As Alysha sings, “When you’ll finally realize you let a good thing pass you by, you’ll be hitting yourself in the head.” So don’t let that happen with Alysha Brilla’s In My Head—hurry out and go get this musical gem!
Once you devour that, you’ll probably want to hear more from Alysha–and don’t worry, you will be in luck! She just started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for her new album (currently in the works), and a chance to premiere her new music with the BBC in London. Check the campaign out here. And keep your ears out for the upcoming new single, “Women”!
Check out Alysha Brilla!
Author: Julie Gossart