Review : Lavender Diamond - Incorruptible Heart
PitchforkIf you ever thought Lavender Diamond would make a second record, Incorruptible Heart is probably not the one you would have expected. Their first, Imagine Our Love, came out in 2007; at shows around the time of their debut, Becky Stark, the band's lead singer and general aesthetic ringmaster, flounced around onstage in gauzy pink dresses, warbling about love and light and roses. When I saw the band play in 2006, even the (male, otherwise stoic) drummer sported pigtails. The band's aggressive cuteness almost overshadowed the actual substance of their music-- wide-eyed theatrical-folk with a keen ear for mood and melody, hooks as big and bright as Stark's doe eyes.
These new songs are shadowy and spacy, a little bit lost, maybe even a tad sexy despite themselves-- all brighter and richer than their predecessors. The overall tonal shift could spark suspicions of identity crises born of trend-hopping, but the gap is bridged by everything Becky Stark has had her hands in over the past five years: performing in the dusky, tight-harmony trio the Living Sisters, recording some country songs with actor John C. Reilly, running a community choir in Los Angeles. It would be easy enough to call these "side-projects," but it's more helpful to think of Lavender Diamond as just one nook in Stark's glitter-spackled pantheon of boundless creative joy.
Stark is such a force, her voice-- and by that I mean both her artistic perspective and her rich, bendy soprano-- so singularly beguiling that it's easy to forget there's anyone else involved in the band, but for the new album she's again corralled pianist Steve Gregoropoulos and drummer Ron Regé Jr. (he of the pigtails), plus producer (and OK Go frontman) Damian Kulash. (The album's out on OK Go's Paracadute imprint, too.) The record's palette initally seems to be less a palette and more like every pigment close at hand dumped onto a canvas at once, but with repeat listens a certain logic emerges, elements bobbing and weaving in and out of view-- a fuzzy horn section, a teasing metallic guitar, swooning strings, the ominous drone of some gargoyle chorus. There are hints of the plainclothes percussion and school-play piano that defined Love, but they're swaddled deep in sheets of warm neon fuzz. Stark's vocals have a tendency to get buried, too; her song structures are plagued by a nearly paralytic tendency towards lyrical repetition which, coupled with the haze of Kulash's production and the more understated delivery she often favors here, can have a soporific effect...full text
AllmusicUpon their emergence in the early 2000s, Los Angeles-based Lavender Diamond were immediately lumped into the "New Weird America" movement that included warped indie folkies like Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and Vetiver, among many others. The band, based around the creative force of bandleader Becky Stark, wasn't quite all the way weird, folk, feral, or drugged-out enough to fit into the confines of the New Weird ghetto, but their achingly positive songs soared with childlike simplicity and a crushingly beautiful straightforwardness in Stark's lyrics and lush vocals. Maybe the nakedness of the songs weirded people out enough, and not offering enough of a context or a gimmick to fit in with the Sufjan Stevenses or Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs of that particular moment in time, Lavender Diamond were shuffled off to sit with the weird kids at the freak folk table. Returning after a five-year space between records with Incorruptible Heart, all the elements of Stark and company's uniquely direct sound have been brought into higher definition, still relying on both playfulness and open-hearted honesty in the songwriting, but bringing with it a refined sophistication absent on earlier work. Songs like the piano-driven "Forgive" and "Oh My Beautiful World" with its update on girl group sounds bring Stark's voice into the forefront, as usual, but here they bear a sadness or world-weary understanding that was missing in the band's more naïve songs. Production was handled by OK Go's Damian Kulash Jr. and Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann, and it's apparent from signature blown-out drum sounds and a combination of dazzlingly psychedelic yet crystal-clear touches. While being relatively spare, Incorruptible Heart sounds huge. "Light My Way" flirts with electro-pop, but sounds a little out of place next to more stripped-down songs. M. Ward shows up to duet on the whimsically upbeat "Perfect Love," which may be a little too giggly and cute for its own good in comparison to the rest of the album, which comes off in turns as mysterious as some of Kate Bush's moments of storminess or as somber as Nick Drake's early orchestral pop bummers. Album opener "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now" sets the scene of the album with its gorgeously simple electric piano and melancholic ripples of delayed percussion and pulsing electronics bounding like rocky waves beneath Stark's voice. Lavender Diamond still aren't weird enough for their wild-eyed brethren, but maybe a little too weird (or more likely not quite disposable enough) for Target commercials. Incorruptible Heart exists, much as the band does, in an in-between space that's not easy to pigeonhole. There's always been an inexplicable brightness to Stark's songs, and here that light is near blinding, even when the songs themselves aren't particularly happy. This long-labored album is a thoughtful and contemplative breed of off-kilter pop that becomes both more interesting and increasingly complex with repeat listening....full text
ClashmusicLavender Diamond are set to release their second album 'Incorruptible Heart' on October 8th.
These things take time. Lavender Diamond released their debut album - the critically lauded 'Imagine Our Love' - back in 2007. Since then, though, the band have been largely engaged in dealing with what should really be filed under 'real life issues'.
But now they're back. Lavender Diamond recently kick started sessions on their second album, holding up with OK Go’s Damian Kulash and longtime Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann at Fridmann's upstate New York base.
Finally finished, 'Incorruptible Heart' is set to drop on October 8th. Album cut 'I Don't Recall' is the perfect primer - picking up where they left off, the sloping bass and gentle drum clap is like a soothing riposte to 'Walk On The Wild Side'....full text
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