Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lydia Puts Out Indie Pop With Devil

Ever since Lydia came together in Gilbert, Arizona, it was destined to have its share of dustups and dramas. The lineup has changed more often than some bands change guitar picks. The worst of the breaks occurred in 2010, shortly after Mindy White left. The remaining members took a hiatus.

Old habits die hard. Long-time collaborators Leighton Antelman and Steve McGraw, who started writing music together in the seventh grade, cured their co-dependent creativity. But Antelman soon found himself back on the stage and in the studio with music meant only for Lydia.

Now, after ten years time, Antelman not only successfully launched a comeback in 2011 but ensured some staying power with a stellar album, Devil. It might even be their best album to date, with a faster pace and more guitar work front and center. The lineup today includes Antelman (vocals, guitar), Justin Camacho (guitar), Matt Keller (bass, keys), and Craig Taylor (drums).

Devil is dreamy indie pop with more urgency and infectious songwriting.

The title might almost be misleading. Even the title track is mostly uplifting, without even a hint of anything dark, dubious or desperate. Quite the opposite, it's a song about lazily enjoying life while looking for the devil that will eventually drag everything down. Except, the devil never happens.

Devil isn't the only time this expectant theme creeps into the music. Even the breakout song, The Exit, is blissful, carefree and meandering that says something about where the band might be. They saw the exit clearly enough but then they drove right past it and nobody said a thing.

Maybe it's this sort of happy stasis that makes the album an interesting find. Sure, there are trials here and there, but none of them play out without any other thought than forgiveness and understanding. It's almost as if Antelman has reached a new place in his entwined fate with Lydia.

Or maybe it's mostly because Antelman has taken to writing down lyrics and vocal melodies before the music (unlike he did in the early years). Where this approach works is that he has progressed as a songwriter, creating atmosphere around the story he wants to tell as opposed to finding a story to fit.

Where you can really hear the difference is in songs like Holidays, a poignantly political song that asks whether it's better to stay or leave places where you can't agree. The contemplation is there, but nothing ever changes because maybe it doesn't matter. Knee Deep does it too, telling a story about how one mistake makes you want to find that day before it happened because it doesn't matter then either.

I might be wrong about some of it, but Antelman won't care. He has always found what people discover in the lyrics to be more interesting than anything he could ever explain. What he might explain, however, is that the melodies drive Devil more than previous outings.

Along with those mentioned, give Take Your Time a listen. There's an unexpected guitar riff that seeps into the song and lends something more to the music.

On the flip side, in listening to the album on more than one pass, the one thing Devil might have needed was a little more diversity and depth. After awhile, it almost feels like every track is being played out in the same breath of non-action, making it all roll together. While this isn't a problem per se, it does tend to weigh down the lift found in the band's best songs.

Devil By Lydia Makes The Wait Worthwhile At 6.3 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Devil by Lydia is one of those soaring albums that bridges indie rock and pop with melodies that make melancholy seem like the perfect state of being. And while some people aren't sure if it ascends to the same level as Illuminate, it does in a less dramatic way.

This time out, Lydia opted to self-release the album. You can find Devil by Lydia on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes. Visit their Facebook page for upcoming tour dates. It seems like they are starting with a few gigs on the West Coast and working their way East but nothing is really set in stone.
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