Thursday, 28 May 2009

Lunic - Lovethief Album Review (2009)

Lunic makes the kind of free-spirited music most new indie bands can only dream about. Taking clear influences from the bands they aspire to contest, while creating a whole new unique sound, Lunic fuse female voiced guitar-based goth-emo and add in folky violins and haunting arrangements. From New York, this six piece lead by Kaitee Page has attracted Ted Jensen who has worked with Muse, Paramore and Evanescence (the latter drawing the most obvious parallels). Lovethief is the band’s second album.

Opener, The Dark House quickly gets past the stuttering start and develops as a bass-driven tale of sorrow and lost love, with sinister overtones. Page’s soft sweet vocals glide over the surface, underpinned with a wordless backing, slightly overused but adding depth. It plays out like a PG horror movie, creepy and spooky not blood and gore, concluding with the delicious “I wanna go where heaven flows like silver liquid in my hands. The magnet touch of purest love can save a man…”. From here, Masquerade is faster, more urgent and a messy mix of guitars and piercing violins - like a folk song played at thrice the speed. The final third blends with a torrent of vocals and ends just as it’s pulling everything together into a coherent ensemble.

Him is a great slice of solid pop - the two part chorus is the highlight over the muddy guitars and drums. But it is Love Me that brings back the subtlety. Lunic are at their best when a well realised idea is put into action, without over thinking and without other ideas getting in the way. And this is the perfect example. A wonderful story of self-deprivation and loathing, yet the hope to get through it and over the discretions, the narrative unfolds as a juxtaposition of melodic chorus and melancholy strings. The song is a cry for help with genuine emotion.

Sadly Lovethief starts to lose it’s way slightly, from such great beginnings. Thieves is a melting pot that boils over with Page introducing the ’soaring’ chorus with a spirited, yet misplaced “Hey we go”. On the plus side, a great vocal interlude complete with heartbeat is used to introduce the last minutes. Likewise The Little Room has aspirations to be great but after the chorus, it falls flat lifted only in the last minute by another great vocal arrangement. Mirage is way too theatrical and dramatic and lacks real substance.

As the album develops, Lovethief becomes more diverse and starts to throw off some shackles. Revenge Of The Lot Lizard is another great story, with Page recalling the life of a sultry temptress, opening with a raw more aggressive vocal and the opening line: “She wears her hair up high. Stockings up to her thighs. You know she wanna go down. You know she's been around”. This time the violins add a subtle darkness and the song ends with some bizarre sampling.

Sober threatens to be a mess with an odd bluesy country arrangement and sharp blast of brass opening but the song holds together. The last minute and a half is a brilliant move. Lunic become the Polyphonic Spree with a rousing choral vocal and huge instrumentation. A tale of the folly of drug abuse that has the open honesty of: “When will you change your crazy ways. Find better ways to spend your days. A big fat spliff between your lips. I'm sick of all the same old shit”, ends with “Why can't we be happy like we were when we were young?”.

But it is the closer Hypnotized that is the biggest surprise. A combination of the best vocals on the album, delicate music and a simple arrangement turn Lunic into Zero 7. Heavy strings and guitars arrive like a dark storm into the second half but the sun breaks through for a controlled, if slightly trippy, finale. It all ends with an abrupt door slam. Magical.

The special edition of the album features an extra track. The Elliot Tribal Remix of The Dark House is an interesting diversion, with swathes of electronic majesty giving the already great song even more depth and production.

At the heart of Lunic is the mind and voice of Kaitee Page. That is not to say that the band don’t pull their weight - they do, especially Kari Bethke and father/son combo of Peter and Elliot Denenberg. But Page’s vocals are a constant and consistent revelation. Comparisons have been made to Dido which is utter nonsense. Page is powerful and commanding without being an overbearing and annoying presence. And the twists and turns of metaphor, dream-like imagery and just a little bit of ‘weird’, turn her into an interesting focal point.

Lovethief’s slight discretions can be overlooked in favour of some truly great work. Lunic’s music shows more than just the promise of a band on the verge of greatness. With enough focus and energy, channelled in the right directions, and with the ‘difficult’ second album overcome, greatness is theirs for the taking.

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