Three Albums That I Should Have Reviewed Months Ago

by August Smith

I have no excuse for not blogging for the entire month of September. Okay, my laptop broke. But that was only like two weeks ago. Also, I’m an idiot who is lazy.

I know, who cares, you didn’t come here for excuses, you came here to hear about Midwestern music. So below, check out three albums from 2012 that we stupidly neglected, that need more attention, and that you need to check out.

Lightning Love, Blonde Album

One of the bigger Michigan releases that we missed over the past few months was Ypsilanti indie-pop trio Lightning Love’s second album, the bluntly titled Blonde Album. Lightning Love’s first album, 2009’s November Birthday, was the work of a band becoming confident in their specific sound: simple, childlike melodies (insanely catchy melodies; beware the infectious “Friends”) with Leah Diehl’s unique voice front and center, her lyrics threading in darker themes about growing up and resisting growing up in one’s twenties. On Blonde Album, we find Lightning Love completely owning this sound, amping up the instrumentation while still keeping it simplistic, deliberate, and uncluttered. Leah Diehl’s vocals are as sweetly grating as ever, and on Blonde Album, we see her voice becoming a kind of character: a tongue-in-cheek lovesick burnout, hating where she is in life but not wanting to be anywhere else; Diehl’s voice and lyrical work is highlighted best by the surprisingly haunting piano ballad “I’ll Never Love No One Else”. Lightning Love clearly know the pitfalls of making such a hook-laden pop record, and wisely keep the album short; only two of the ten songs break the three-minute mark, and each one worms their way into your brain and never overstays their welcome. Blonde Album is out now via Quite Scientific records, and you can listen to and order the album HERE. And the band did a wonderful Daytrotter session very recently, so peep it.

John Davey, In a Whelming Tide

John Davey is a very inspiring person. I’ve only met him once- at Boiling Pot Festival- but his serious work ethic, Midwestern charm, and passion for music were all immediately apparent to me. And I’m delighted to say that his magnetic personality also comes through on his debut album. Recorded in West Lafayette, In a Whelming Tide is the sound of a singer-songwriter knowing exactly what he wants his album to sound like; a lyrically surprising folk-rock record, rife with tales of young love and tailor-made for star gazing in autumn. Instrumentally and vocally, the album reminds me a lot of Timothy Monger’s most recent release, The New Britton Sound: horns, accordions, keys, glockenspiels, etc., flavoring acoustic-guitar driven folk-rock, with John’s bright, starry-eyed voice unfolding his captivating stories on each track. You can listen to and order the album here, and follow Davey’s frequently entertaining tour diary here.

Phantasmagoria, Currents

Hailing from Detroit, it feels like Phantasmagoria quite suddenly materialized out of some nether-void in 2011 and started dropping really great and engaging music. Their debut LP Currents was released via Five Three Dial Tone Records in July, and, like much of today’s cutting-edge genre-combinations, it straddles the line between introspective psychedelia and strobe-light-ready dance-pop. And for the most part, the balance is successful: “Portals”’ sickly synths and tribal heartbeat are kept submissive by Lianna Vanicelli’s soaring pop-diva vocals, and on the title-track, the duo effectively manipulates echo and reverb to create what sounds like a neon-bright, swirling whirlpool of complementing melodies. But when it doesn’t work- like on “Habitats”- the contradictory sounds strain under the weight of the vocals, and the songs occasionally devolve into a mess of trap-snare hits and watery samples. Still, the band has already put out an EP since the Currents release, so it doesn’t seem like Phantasmagoria is going to stand still any time soon. Check the album and the new EP on the band’s bandcamp here.