One problem with being a band indigenous to a growing place like Durham is that, if your crusade doesn't match the pace of the city's progression, you run the risk of being buried in or blurred out by the surroundings—that is, out-rocked by busier, more innovative and louder acts in town. On their fourth album, simply titled IV, six-man bro band LiLa barely makes it out of their own rubble, mixing a concerned brand of undetectable chillax rap with obedient instrumentation. Sometimes it works, but mostly it just clocks in and eats away one's listening time.
IV does have some soul packed in the places you'd least expect. "Jungle Fever" opens with a sweet, frying falsetto over bass waves, but the group soon slides into pedantic territory with lyrics like "relearning inside of conventions" and "domesticating taboo creations." Really, most of the rapping on IV floods some of the better vocal and instrumental crevices. During "No News," where the rapping suffices, we get better lines and observation—"bag full of tricks, whole head full of steam/the eyes stay fixed/the headline reads: 'No News'/mailman R.I.P." There's a story about a woman who waited seven years to receive a letter from a husband who left to fight in a bloody war. Finally, one day, a letter carrier arrived with an envelope. "I have no message for you," it read. She died of a heart attack. Does LiLa have any message for us that we've been waiting our whole lives to hear in a song? Can't we just party and address our universal anxieties later or never? IV doesn't really allow us to do any of that.
The Beast's Pierce Freelon gives the guys some support on "Reminisce," with an earnest verse about a friend who passed away in a drunk-driving accident. Unfortunately, Freelon's band wasn't on hand to do any arranging or production, which is what you'd expect from two bands with such easy access to each other. Collaboration isn't always a necessity, but in LiLa's case, some helping hands in the studio would have better informed IV of the much more urgent works of the city that surrounds it.