Over the last couple of weeks, we've been looking back at some of the most affecting records and musicians to make a mark on this calendar year. Obviously this isn't unique to this column; virtually every publication discussing music tries to summarize each 12-month cycle as it comes to a close. There are various reasons why we feel the need to take time and divide and give boundaries to it—all across culture and society, not just the arts—and placing the passing of time into neatly slotted compartments is one of the ways humanity makes sense and copes with a natural world we can't control. The virtues and pitfalls of this mechanism are endlessly debatable, but in art, moving beyond the constraints of the customs of civilization is how progress is made, and the acts of both surrendering to instinct and assuming control over the pathways—time, narrative, etc.—normally out of the individual's control are hallmarks some of the most visionary artists.
At the present in Tucson, you'd be hard pressed to find an artist more visionary than Louise Le Hir. After fronting bands for several years, this singer/songwriter took the somewhat predictable next step and went solo, debuting with a self-titled album in 2015. It was the most accomplished and revelatory local album that year, combining '60s AM-radio pop, especially of the French variety, with a refreshingly original sort of glammy country-rock. The songwriting was exemplary—opening track "Cosmic Love Song #23" was alone worth the price of admission, so to speak—and Le Hir established herself as one of the city's fully formed talents.
But it's what she's done since the album's release that has made her the closest artist Tucson has to, say, David Bowie. Live, Le Hir and her first rate, rotating cast of backing musicians and collaborators, most notable guitarists Annie Dolan and Connor Gallaher, have deconstructed, reconstructed and basically torn the songs' arrangements apart and reinterpreted them at will. The elasticity of the musicians performing the songs helps, but rarely is an artist as adventurous with their music as Le Hir.
Le Hir's second album is reportedly due out in the next few months; an unfinished, unmastered version called Kill Pretty is out now and well worth hearing. And it's safe to say whatever the finished product is, as well as her plans for beyond, she's worth following.