Review Summary: Farewell, Beautiful.
There’s always been a certain sadness that has dogged Lydia through their short but gorgeous oeuvre of music. Whether it was Leighton Antelman’s sorrow soaked vocals or the atmospheric rippling of nostalgic melodies that made their records the perfect cry-into-your-pillow-it-will-be-okay material, the band have always had a penchant for pulling just the right heartstrings to make their audience feel. Feel what, exactly? Well, whatever really. And it’s this ‘whatever’, this ‘we don’t really have anything to say to you, but here’s some incredibly pretty music, so we sure hope you feel better now!’ that has been Lydia’s M.O. from day one.
And from that day, it’s been both their blessing and their curse. Their blessing, because scores of scorned lovers and romantic dreamers have been able to read into Lydia’s brand of layered indie-pop their own stories of woe and hope, inscribing and drawing from the music the reflection of their own emotional reveries and latching on to the band with ardent fervor. Their curse, because it’s just as easy not to give a damn. With this in mind, Assailants
, their farewell EP, should be the perfect place for the band to finally deliver a vision for all their beauty and mark out an enduring testimony to leave behind. They almost do.
The title gives it away: “I can’t seem to kill my assailants/ they just keep changing faces” – it’s almost as if the band have finally marked out an enemy, coupled with a spirit to drive it away, the spirit that reared it’s powerful head time and time again on Illuminate
, which promises to make itself shown here. But it doesn’t quite happen. Instead, we’re left wondering: who are those assailants and what have you done to make them so very angry?
The point is not that Lydia actually needs to answer this stupid question, but that they need instead to direct all that raw power into something other than vague and stratospheric allusions to everything and anything endearing.
But to ease the trigger, Lydia will, if you let her, be your best friend. It may be easy not to give a damn, but if you want to, if you want to open yourself up to feel, to dream, Lydia will be there for you: songs like “Empty Out Your Stomach” and “I’ve Never Seen A Witch” drip with emotional sincerity, spiraling dizzy with the delicate sparkle of twinkling guitar lines and swaying melodies ready to be cuddled and held and postmarked with the label of ‘song-that-got-me-though-that-sh
itty-time-in-life-once’. And if you're lucky, it will. And like Illuminate
, there are fleeting moments here an there which do in fact reach out from the depths: “Assailants” for one, at times even almost (but not quite!) threatens to cross over into epic territory of Arcade Fire-y grandiosity, soaring into a searing climax before pulling back and easing into a discordant, not-so-memorable close.
“Music Makers” too, shows off a subtle spark of experimentation, with twisted guitar lines buried underneath a spooky carnivalesqe melodies marking out one of the more interesting but short lived moments on Assailants
. And here and there, lyrics will occasionally creep out through the haze of reverb laden atmosphere to crawl inside an unsuspecting head, before descending again into the sweet potpourri: “Of course you’re all crazy/ Everyone but me” croons Antelman in a sort of self conscious cloud of denial on “We Clean Up So Well”. Maybe it’s exactly that denial that’s the problem here.
Which brings us back to sadness. Maybe it was the haste of putting together a collection of tunes to see the band off, or the shock of Mindy White’s departure earlier in the year – but when all the psychoanalyzing wears off, the truth is that Lydia remain caught in the trap of the Beautiful Souls, too victimized to make a change, and too pure to even try. Instead, she’ll cry about it. Everyone knows a Lydia. She’s loved, adored, but in small doses. At twenty one minutes, Assailants
is just that, and as sad as it may be, perhaps it was for the best. So glad you could make it to a farewell/ 'til we meet again, enjoy yourself.