A supple piano’s yearning greets us amidst the darkness of the opening bars in the Sharon Lia Band’s “Why Can’t We Pretend?,” and soon after its first appearance the group’s eponymous lead singer enters focus with a powerfully evocative vocal that is unmistakably hers and hers alone. She sews her words into the fabric of the piano’s melody seamlessly, and there’s a sense of stinging melancholy that emanates from the resulting harmony they create together. Suddenly and without warning, skyscraper-sized electric guitars come crashing in on us from above, and the song evolves into a Bat Out of Hell-inspired concept piece that’s outfitted with flowing vocals, intrepid string play and a rich, organic tonality that warms up every stitch of audio resonating from the stereo. “Why Can’t We Pretend?” isn’t devoid of pomp and grandeur, but if one thing is for certain, it’s that the Sharon Lia Band have just issued one of the most uniquely poetic rock compositions to hit record stores this year – which, as most music enthusiasts are well aware, is no small statement to make considering the caliber of content we’ve seen in 2019.
Everything in this track centers on Lia’s vocal. The guitars, the drums, the haunting piano that we meet at the very start of the song, even the rigidly textured bassline that cushions the percussive blows and prevents the music from ever becoming too abrasive for mainstream consumption; all of it follows the lead set forth by her incredible dispatch of the verses. I found her style of attack to be a bit more conservative in this single than it has been in previous efforts (namely her 2016 debut), but the same can be said for the way that the band constructed the video for “Why Can’t We Pretend?” as well. The substance of the song is the only element of excess in the music video, which is rather artsy by design in comparison to what most lyric-oriented videos tend to look like. The Sharon Lia Band are coming across as a little bit experimental here – a first for them – and I’m eager to see if the rest of their soon to be released sophomore album Beyond Wonderland is as eclectic in nature as this first sampling of its contents is.
If this single and its tracklist neighbors on Beyond Wonderland are on par with what we can expect to hear out of this group in future studio efforts, then you can absolutely sign me up for more. Sharon Lia is a very talented singer, and though her skillset is still developing into what I can only imagine will be an unstoppable beast at full-power, she’s definitely doing some of the best work we’ve heard from her thus far. Together with her band, I think she’s got the potential to make a serious mark on the new alternative pop sound in the 2020s, regardless of whatever competition she faces on both the domestic and international levels. This is a big moment for this group, and it couldn’t be arriving at a better time in relation to current state of the American underground.