Ada Lea

Montreal, CAN

As with so many artistic endeavors, Ada Lea’s debut album began as one thing and ended up as something else. The commonality of that process doesn’t make the story any less interesting, however, especially in the case of what we say in private — a beautifully colorful collection of profound pop songs that will be released later this summer via her new Saddle Creek home. The Montreal, Quebec-based Alexandra Levy — who records and performs as Ada Lea — is also a painter and visual artist, and traces of her many creative abilities run throughout what we say in private. To her, music and visual art are different vessels for communicating similar ideas. Levy’s appreciation of female artists — including the writer Sylvia Plath, visual artists Frida Kahlo and Eva Hesse, and musicians Karen Dalton and Nina Simone — provides inspiration and guidance, informing her use of multiple artforms as tools for self-expression. Whether it’s creating music or art, “It’s a world that I can build around me and sit inside,” she says. Through all her work, Levy explores the concept of womanhood as it feels and looks to her, as well as love and how it transforms over time. She doesn’t shy away from exploring uncomfortable and painful emotions, either. With the brightness of love, strength, and hope contrasted with the darkness of loss, suffering, isolation, and abandonment, what we say in private is a varied and vivid record that constantly seems to shift in the light, bringing together all the intricate influences she’s collected over the years. Levy, who studied music in New York City for three years, initially envisioned what we say in private as a conceptual record formed from two distinct sides: one inspired by the sun and one by the moon. That idea waned over time as the songs began to take shape, and her initial sketches laid the path to somewhere, something else. “Over time, that idea started to feel wrong and out of place, and a distance had grown between me and the concept,” Levy says, upon reflection. “I followed the clues and pieces that inspired me, and they would bring me somewhere else, a slightly different direction. In the end I would just keep looking for more and more clues until it felt right to stop.” Her album reverberates with human warmth, defined by the signature characteristics that can be found throughout. Lead track “the party” fittingly comes wrapped up in static white noise, a soft atmosphere lingering in the distance and gently surrounding the stark instrumentation that is gradually introduced. “wild heart” follows a similar path, the first couple of minutes gently rolling on but always feeling slightly off-kilter, a far off surrealness that comes to the fore for the song’s richly absorbing finale.
Ada Lea