Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off the Lavender Bridge
It's doubtful you remember Test Icicles if you weren't below the age of twenty in 2006, such was the brief nature of their youthful metal/rap/indie noise. Former member Dev Hynes appears to have laid the remnants of his band's memory to rest with the creation of new alter-ego, Lightspeed Champion. This, his first solo album, is the complete polar opposite to, given the sophistication of the record, a former band that is the very definiton of 'the folly of youth'. And I liked them.
Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is a different beast entirely, though. It's pretty evident that Hynes has been listening to more than enough Conor Oberst. Opener Galaxy of the Lost is the kind of lush acoustic pop you can expect, no doubt influenced by the Go-Betweens and bookended by Hynes, accompanied by the lovely tones of up-and-coming Emmy the Great, singing, 'I feel better now I've seen you/But deep inside my bones feel like timber'. Lead single Tell Me What It's Worth is accomplished, the snug acoustics hiding some particularly disturbing imagery about dead 'negroes' and gushing blood, yet there are better songs here. Midnight Surprise is as ambitious as anything from Joanna Newsom's Ys, building and then dropping away while various melodic and lyrical motifs do the same thing, culminating in a ten-minute grand epic.
The momentum is sometimes not fully sustained over the album's twelve tracks, probably something to do with the fact that nothing can match up to the, well, surprise of Midnight Surprise. There are some delightful left-turns, though, such as the string-soaked oddity Devil Tricks for a Bitch and the guitars on No Surprise (For Wendela), which suggest a fondness for Weezer. Everybody I Know Is Listening to Crunk features the kind of wry modern observations Kate Nash and Jamie T are more well-known for, and Salty Water is a simple but unsettling contrast played out on the piano, seemingly depicting a nightmarish vision of drowning.
In a chart saturated with bland-by-numbers male singer/songwriters, ...Lavender Bridge is welcome and hopefully indicative of the kind of homegrown talent we can expect to emerge this year. Think Patrick Wolf, only less flamboyant and into Bright Eyes and Ryan Adams rather than Marianne Faithful, and you have some idea. This is contemporary countryfied pop that just happens to be cool.