Lake Street Dive – Lake Street Dive

January 01, 1970

(Signature Sounds)


Waving goodbye to the somewhat jaded state that’s followed
snoring through the deluge of over-canny/cute, self-conscious/reverential, or
just unspectacular pop of 2010 to date… feels great. Once in a sweet blue moon,
a recording arrives that is so fresh and appealing, there’s no recourse but to
spout clichés like “once in a blue moon.” I have absolutely no complaints, no
suggestions, and no duck-and-hide-ennui jokes, comparisons, or formatting
hi-jinx, as there’s no need to cajole readers into being interested in
something that makes me glance longingly out the window toward the crickets.


Camouflaged by a gray cardboard digipak decorated by uncredited,
three-colored artwork, Lake Street Dive is just such a recording, and combo. The word “Yum!” has been drawn on the
four-wheeled, food-vendor-type contraption on the back of the sleeve. “Yum!”


The debut is a soulful (but not only, sometimes recalling sources
including Merseybeat, Wings, or the Cardigans, but in a way that fits
organically, seamlessly into the compositions) pop confection that tricks us
into thinking it won’t be extraordinary by opening with the perfectly respectable
bounce of “Hello? Goodbye!” All unsuspecting, I start assessing: “Lead singer cajoles
like Bonnie Raitt, but with the verve and punch of Amy Winehouse. The song’s
good enough to make a body want to keep listening, but not enough to make her
throw flowers in the air.” After the album’s spun its magic a few more times, that’s
shifted to, “Hello? Goodbye!” combines a Letters from Cleo/Save Ferris kind of loft
with a bit of Big Easy lilt (thanks to the trombone of Mike Olson, who also
provides guitar) and a near-Mexican jumping bean giddiness.”


Oh, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers come to mind, but only as
“The Squirrel Nut Zippers should be this good, although they helped pave the
way for Lake Street Dive.”


“Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand” steals in almost as sneakily,
with a melody made arresting by jazz-trained chanteuse Rachael Price’s intense
focus, with the accompaniment of bare-bones percussion, a finely parsed organ,
and electric guitar as perfectly targeted as that of a Stax/Volt player. Then
the song stands up and throws off its London Fog raincoat to reveal the naked
emotion in a bridge that turns the song into something approaching greatness;
what the composition doesn’t quite manage is made up for with fine-tuned
dynamics, gorgeous harmonies, and the escalating intensity of classic soul. Wow,
these young people are doing this in 2010… in


Other tracks startle with wordplay like “Henriette/sobriquet,”or,
on “Elijah,” something about not making it to Christmas with “…like two distant
shores we are bound by our love as an isthmus.” Wow, these young people are
literate without apologizing or making a big deal of it… in Massachusetts
(which can stand, in this case, without italics).  


Everything comes together as it tends to for meant-to-be
projects. Lively rhythms alternate with the more measured pace of balladry.
Production is consistently creative, as when distant-feeling bass and organ
chords quietly herald Price’s luscious vocal on “Disregard,” which expands
another deceptively simple melody with a warm, harmonized chorus. And, as on
albums that form a complete story rather than a set of disparate tracks, it
turns out “Disregard” has laid the way for a song so sublime, it brings chills.
LSD can tempt even a listener who’s impatient with moans over love lost or
unrequited to not only listen, but brew a cup of yum and settle into an easy
chair for sounds so handily evoking the ephemerality of existence, romance, and
loneliness – not to mention the odd jokes played on anyone awake to the nuances.
The raw beauty of “Neighbor Song” is so moving, these born-again-through-tears
lines almost get lost in the shuffle: “Sometimes I forget all of us are just
human/‘cause we’re all stacked in rolls and columns/and if one of them should
fall/my neighbors making love upstairs would crush me…”  


Nearly as arresting is “We All Love the Same Songs,” which
has a bit of Wings’ feel circa Ram,
with a touch of minor-key melancholy. Honestly, it’s all good, with moments of
greater poignancy punctuating the whole. How many ways can you say something is
extraordinary? Well, here’s one more: If Maroon 5 busted out with an album
packed with this much ingenuity and inspiration, it would live up to the rep. it’s
been coasting on since “Sunday Morning.”


LSD may not earn the millions Maroon 5 would garner with (or
without) something this vital, but I fervently hope the band will live long and
prosper. Even if the next full-length falls short of this one’s seamless serendipity,
the foursome can bask in the knowledge it’s created something pretty amazing.


Make Me Hold Your Hand,” “I Don’t Really See You Anymore,” “Neighbor Song,” “We
All Love The Same Songs,” “My Speed” MARY LEARY


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