HYPOTHETICALLY speaking, we were all waiting for this album to drop. Well, I was at least.
Ever since I heard the now-viral acoustic cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back’ on YouTube , I’ve been following Lake Street Dive (along with their side projects, such as Rachael and Vilray) with great admiration. They are one of those bands that take great pride in their subdued, toned down appeal in an overfilled, postmodern jukebox world.
All highly trained musicians, educators, and obviously great friends that met at the New England Conservatory of Music, they truly shine in their ability to make an acoustically bare track into one that fills the room with nothing but pure talent.
Singer Rachael Price, one of the best vocalists to emerge out of the blue-eyed soul genre, manages to provide the same jaw-dropping effect each time she sings. Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpets, guitar) is a classy arranger, whilst Bridget Kearney (double bass, vocals) holds her own in perfect synergy with drummer Mike Calabrese. With the addition of jazz keyboardist Akie Bermiss the band deliver a fresh, more full rounded sound in Obviously, complete with tracks that are sure to be playing on our soul playlists for years to come.
Obviously was produced by Mike Elizondo, who has worked with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Carrie Underwood and Fiona Apple, and personally speaking, I feel this was a brilliant move. It finally puts the band where they need to be: in the limelight. The band shifts from its known acoustic sound to a fuller, more mature aesthetic, making full use of the band’s individual performative and compositional skills.
The first track, “Hypotheticals” is an upbeat, fun and harmonically showstopping start to the album, instantly a crowd pleaser. Make no mistake they deliver lyrically as well as they do musically, with clear protest songs like “Hush Money”, “Being a Woman” (a beautiful composition by Kearney) and the complacent state of just causes, “Making Do”. The latter is certainly one of the more standout tracks off the record. It’s an almost saddened open letter to the next generation, informing them that well, we’ve certainly messed things up, so now it’s up to them to make do with what they’ve got; be their own heroes. Message received.
If you thought the album couldn’t get any richer in sound, nor the band sound any more talented, think again. “Feels Like The Last Time” starts with vocals over a beautiful human beatbox and a melancholy ukulele, transitioning into layered claps, melodicas, oohs and aahs. Acoustic music at it best.
The final track, “Sarah”, is the kind of song a band as eclectically wonderful as Lake Street Dive need to share for us truly listen. Whether it reminds us of Breonna Taylor, or the tale of lost souls, it’s still heartbreaking.
We need more records like these.
Support and listen to the music of Lake Street Dive here.