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  • Vanessa Siebrass

Album Review: "Prelude to Ecstasy" - The Last Dinner Party


Photo: The Last Dinner Party via Facebook


While the members initially met in 2020, London indie band The Last Dinner Party didn't officially form until 2021. The band's roster features five permanent members - Abigail Morris (vocals), Lizzie Mayland (vocals/guitar), Georgia Davies (bass), Aurora Nishevci (keys/vocals), and Emily Roberts (lead guitar/mandolin/flute). As the band currently lacks a permanent drummer, their live performances feature the talents of Rebekah Rayner. Kick back, get comfortable, and get ready to embark upon the musical journey that is the band's debut album, "Prelude to Ecstasy."


TRACKLIST


Prelude To Ecstasy

Burn Alive

Caesar on a TV Screen

The Feminine Urge

On Your Side

Beautiful Boy

Gjuha

Sinner

My Lady of Mercy

Portrait of a Dead Girl

Nothing Matters

Mirror


Members Abigail, Georgie, and Lizzie met at university in 2020, attending numerous gigs in South London. Deciding to form a band, Emily was recommended by a mutual friend, and Aurora was recruited shortly thereafter. The Last Dinner Party struggled to meet for rehearsals and performances due to the widely-implemented Covid-19 restrictions during that time. The band persevered, however, and gave their first live performance at London's The George. Videographer Lou Smith happened to attend the band's third live gig, filming the performance and sharing it on his YouTube channel, helping to skyrocket the band's popularity. With an eclectic sound that incorporates elements of art rock, baroque pop, indie rock, and folk music, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy.


Track 1 - Prelude To Ecstasy


While the debut album's instrumental title track is under two minutes in length, that does not diminish its impact by any means. Orchestral music ushers us in, slowly building in intensity and then gradually softening to intermingle with the delicate tones of a harp. The ominous tolling of church bells can also be heard, lending an air of mystery and intrigue. And, if listening closely, one may notice some melodic nods to the rest album's tracklist contained throughout the opening tune.




Track 2 - Burn Alive


Written by Abigail Morris, Burn Alive was the first track created by the band and has been the set opener ever since they started performing. Abigail wrote the song after the loss of her father, encapsulating those complex emotions within. The music begins with a dark, 80's goth vibe and a style that is reminiscent of Siouxie and the Banshees. The emotion conveyed via the vocal performance is tangible; you can feel its depth swallow you whole. 'I am not the girl I set out to be/Let me make my grief a commodity/Do what I can to survive/There is candle was melting in my veins/So I keep myself standing in your flames/Burn, burn me alive.'




Track 3 - Caesar on a TV Screen


The final release before the album's debut, this track is an absolute delight. It is chock-full of theatrical energy, creativity, and an eccentricity that takes you on a complete musical journey. Soft, alluring vocals and elegantly flowing music convey a dreamy quality before ramping up, transitioning to lively riffs and playful energy in the pre-chorus. But perhaps the song's biggest surprise is its chorus, which captures all the pomp and bombast of an exaggerated masculine swagger in song form. 'And just for a second, I could be one of the greats/I'll be Caesar on a TV screen, champion of my fate/No one can tell me to stop, I'll have everything I want, anyone/And everyone will like me then/Everyone will like me then.'




Track 4 - The Feminine Urge


This song explores the concept of being a woman, more specifically, feminine rage, the mother wound, and generationally shared traumas and experiences. More soft, dreamy music, with a dash of femme fatale thrown in for good measure, paired with beautiful vocals. The proverbial claws are unsheathed, and fangs bared as the song progresses, the vocal delivery, in particular, becoming more assertive, confident, cheeky, and defiant. 'Oh, ballerina, bend under the weight of it all/Ain't it fun to hold the world in your hands?/Do you feel like a man when I can't talk back?/Do you want me or do you want control?"




Track 5 - On Your Side


This track details the chronicles the lifecycle of a toxic relationship that is drawing to an end, a case where the fly begins the painstaking process of extricating itself from the spider's web. From the heights of passion and pleasure to the trenches of sorrow and despair, the feelings captured in the vocals make this song relatable to anyone who has had a similar experience. The shimmering keys, in particular, provide a gorgeous focal point that contrasts nicely against the pain of the lyrics. 'Back to the olive mount you lead me to/The wind was blinding so I clung to you/And you smiled so sweetly/As you threw me/Down to the rocks into the seaweed/You thought that I could fly.'




Track 6 - Beautiful Boy


Written about the experience of an attractive male friend, Abigail explains how this friend had lost his phone while hitchhiking solo through Spain, completing his journey thanks to the kindness of strangers met along the way. She reflects on her envy of his experience, knowing that if she were to attempt the same, the result would likely be quite different. The sweetly melancholic notes of the flute and the delicate notes of the keys provide a lovely backdrop for poignant vocals that feel achingly beautiful, developing an almost hymnal feel about midway through the song. 'The best a boy can ever be is pretty/He launches ships on which he sails to safety/And what I'm feeling isn't lust, it's envy/He has the Earth, makes love to her, to spite me.'




Track 7 - Gjuha


Translating to 'tongue' in Albanian, Aurora shares that this song describes her sorrow about not being as familiar with her mother tongue as she would like. Hailing from Kosovo, Aurora's family speaks Albanian, but having been raised in London, the keyboardist herself doesn't speak it so well. The result is a haunting, melancholy, and stunningly beautiful song that perfectly conveys her emotions despite any language barrier. 'Mund të marrë pak kohë/Kohë me folë shlirë' (It may take some time/Time to talk about it).




Track 8 - Sinner


The album's second release, this track is a journey of self-acceptance, a desire for one's past and present selves to integrate and fully become one. The featured video, directed by Balan Evans and the band, was shot in one take. Featuring lovely vocal harmonies, sparkling piano notes, and some truly excellent guitar work, this track continues in the same vein of avant-garde offerings, drawing musical inspiration from an array of genres and artists. '(Pray for me, on your knees) before the hillside turns to grey/Pray for me, kneel with me/Soak in the crystal stream/Wash the sin from your back/Cleanse my soul, make me whole/Dance in the morning glow/Hold me, we can't go back.'




Track 9 - My Lady of Mercy


The album's third release provides us with a heavier, darker atmosphere and imagery as it delves into the reconciliation of the conflict between one's sexual preferences and religious upbringing. With feelings of shame, excitement, fear, freedom, and guilt, this track is the most overtly sexual. Navigating the tensions that accompany a teenage crush is difficult enough as is, let alone one where you have to overcome religious conditioning. Double-entendres, brooding, moody instrumentation, and soaring vocals make this a memorable and enjoyable performance. 'I, I want to take your picture/Picture me in bed/Under your crucifix/Under your long black hair/I'll see you on Sunday/I wanna make them sing, ah.'




Track 10 - Portrait of a Dead Girl


This track was inspired by a portrait on Pinterest featuring an older woman wearing a red dress, seated on a bed, with an enormous wolf next to her. For Abigail, the picture embodied a toxic relationship. At first, you feel protected and safe because the wolf is tethered, but you gradually become aware of the peril in which you've placed yourself. This song resonates with anyone who has found themselves struggling to free themselves from similar circumstances. 'They look so safe/A guard dog there just for her/If only she knew that with one wrong move/He'll turn around and tear off her hands/And I wish you had given me/The courtesy of ripping out my throat/And I wish that I let you have/The dignity of letting me go.'





Track 11 - Nothing Matters


The album's debut single has undergone many iterations, starting off as a slow piano ballad. Eventually, additions such as horn sections, vocal experimentation, and guitar solos helped the track evolve into the version we know today. Written to capture the euphoric sensation of being in love, this song describes Abigail's relationship with her then-beau. This song, however, was intended to be a later release; initially, they had discussed reserving that honor for Burn Alive. 'Even when the cold comes crashing through/I'm putting all my bets on you/I hope they never understand us/I put my heart inside your palms/My home in your arms/Now we know, nothing matters/Nothing matters.'




Track 12 - Mirror


The album's final track examines concepts such as outside validation, self-identity, and emotional vulnerability. Raw, gritty, part curse, and part plea, this track delivers an experience that has a very witchy vibe to me, very reminiscent of Florence + The Machine. Haunting, breathy vocals interlace with particularly excellent work on keys and strings accented by Rebekah's contributions on drums. 'Cause lately I've been drinkin'/I need to stop my thinkin'/Tell me how you're feeling/I'll reflect the reason.'




Prelude to Ecstasy is, without a doubt, going to be in my top ten albums for 2024. The creativity, talent, and vision of the band have come together to create an unforgettably rich and truly immersive experience for the listener. The Last Dinner Party is currently on tour in North America and has just recently announced newly added UK/Europe tour dates. The band also earned the 2024 BRITs Rising Star Award, which is supported by BBC Radio 1. Be sure to keep your eye on these up-and-coming artists - I have a feeling we will be seeing more from them, and soon!



Written By Vanessa Siebrass



*Copyright not intended. Fair Use Act, Section 107.

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