The three members in Ill Lillies appear to be quite fond of tongue twisters. Go ahead and try to say the name of their band quickly, five times in a row. Yeah, be sure not to get too “ill”. Oh man, I apologize. That was a horrible attempt. Fortunately, their music is much more accessible than their namesake implies. Little information is known about the trio from Cleveland, Ohio, though their creative musical approach and highly apparent melodic hooks are beginning to distinguish the band as a very enjoyable group of songwriters. One of the chief members is Brian Riley, who is hailed by his two counterparts as the “resident musical genius”. He supplies rhythm guitar and piano, in addition to the majority of the vocals. The trio is rounded out by lead guitarist Adam Morse and drummer/guitarist Martin Coppola, the first of which is also an acoustic solo artist. Enjoying Riley’s vocals will most likely end up becoming a love-it-or-hate-it affair for most people, with his high-pitched presentation stretching out catchy melodies that demonstrates direct passion. Personally, I find the vocals to be fantastic, being somewhat of an odd cross between Danielson, Finn Andrews, and even Jeff Buckley. This is highly evident in the captivating “High Tyde”, a noteworthy track that draws on an acid folk influence with it’s distinctive guitar progression and illusory chord sequences. Riley croons his way through a haunting recollection of society’s superficial tendencies, with an introverted atmosphere in mind. “Take all the things in life that you’re afraid of,” Riley delivers, with his elevated vocals giving off a sense of tortured longing, “smash them all into tiny piece.” “High Tyde”, in particular, reminds me of several songs from The Veils, another fantastic band who draws on a similar themes of mystery and eluded mysticism, utilizing a very unique display of vocal chords to display them.
“White Diamonds” begins with a linear retrospective, displaying nothing more than a swift guitar that builds in complexity over time. When the percussion provides further accompaniment, Riley provides us with a very enjoyable chorus that somehow sounds both familiar and innovative, serving as an ode for the trio’s admiration of 60s pop. “White Diamonds” was the factor that spurred my Danielson comparison, with a few Beach Boys and Beatles influences peeking through (as usual). “Mardelina” is barely over a minute long but it provides a lasting impression, with the backing vocals benefiting as a surefire complementary factor in stressing the band’s tendency to craft extremely relevant hooks, most often at the root of Riley’s vocal performances. Poking fun at the idea that the best tracks from most artists often comes in their first few years together, Ill Lillies’ debut album is ironically titled Greatest Hits Vol. 1. These three tracks are just a small sample of a very respectable debut album, most of which can be streamed on their web site for free. Fans of prompt and catchy power-pop should find enjoyment in Greatest Hits Vol. 1, even if some view Riley’s vocals to be a bit outlandish. Well, I see it as a quality that brings extreme originality to the picture, setting Ill Lillies apart from the generic mold that we call “the rest”.