Sometimes music grows on you the more you listen to it. It may take five or six goes at a band’s new single before it really sinks in. But sometimes new music hits you right in the gut, and you know that it’s good – so good that it’s impossible to ignore. Layla’s new single, ‘Smokestacks’, is of the latter category. This is totally unabashed pop music, but with an eerie twist: the grouped vocals seem almost tribal, coupled with crunching piano chords, strings and brass. It is reminiscent of Ceremonials-era Florence + the Machine, but with added hints of Patrick Wolf to wrap the obvious in mist. To me, this is no surprise. But to the rest of the world, it might be.
Before Layla had transformed into this lean, mean orchestral arrangements machine, I knew her as Jose Vanders. She self-released four EPs worth of Regina Spektor-esque piano music, showcasing a songwriting ability that clearly hasn’t abandoned her in later years. I spent years dragging friends to her shows and snapping up merchandise – I still have the posters and thank you notes on my bedroom walls to prove it. Fast-forward a couple of years, and the rebranded Layla has already released two EPs under her new name. Lazy, this woman is not. Whilst some songs have occasionally been a bit hit and miss (although it is definitely worth checking out ‘Oh My Love’ from her most recent EP, Yellow Circles), ‘Smokestacks’ is clearly a return to form. Layla has developed from the teenage girl behind a keyboard, transforming her raw songwriting ability into a talent for creating pieces of music that enrapture and enthral.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Layla has been featured on Made in Chelsea soundtracks enough times for her to be practically taken as part of the programme, as well as recently getting played on A Question of Sport. It’s clear the world of TV likes her, as does ex-Kid British vocalist Bipolar Sunshine, who has recently taken her on tour. I’ve been saying this for years, but at some point, Layla is going to get really big. And this might just be her moment.