Review Summary: Get It Right
Lydia seemed like they were destined to be a one album wonder. "Illuminate" was more than just an album it was a beautiful experience: the songs flowed together perfectly like you were reading a chapter book instead of listening to an album, the lyrics were heartfelt yet simple, the music was gorgeous yet aggressive, and every song on the album offered a unique sound or vocal that still flowed with the rest of the album. "Illuminate" was probably one of the most beautiful indie albums I have ever listened to and probably the most underrated.
After "Illuminate," Lydia seemed to chose a sound that was popular over a sound that was gorgeous, lyrics that were clichés instead of lyrics that were heartfelt, making songs that sounded like a bunch of poppy singles instead of making songs that flowed beautifully together, and making EP's instead of chapter book like experiences. This EP they crafted was "Assailants," and it seemed like a pathetic end to what could have been a brilliant career. Lydia had the potential to have the sound of a brilliant combination of Radiohead, The Antlers, and Youth Lagoon, but on "Assailants" it seemed like Lydia just settled for being another run of the mill indie band. It seemed like Lydia's career was going to be defined by "potential greatness" instead of "proven greatness," and that is always one of the biggest tragedies in music.
But Lydia decided not to be satisfied with a career defined by "potential greatness," and crafted another near classic album in "Paint It Golden." "Paint It Golden" is a perfect combination of the beauty and flow of "Illuminate" with the catchiness of some of the tracks on "Assailants." While "Illuminate" was beautiful in a dark sort of cynical way, "Paint It Golden" is mesmerizing in an optimistic poppy sort of way. While "Illuminate" gave us the feeling of a chapter book with tons of footnotes, "Paint It Golden" gives us the feel of a open notebook where we can write whatever we want in it. On "Illuminate," Lydia seemed to force the uniqueness and their greatness on us with every track but on "Paint It Golden" they seem more content to find their sweet spot. And when you hear the beautiful music that this sweet spot produces you finally realize that Lydia have turned their potential greatness into proven greatness.
Lydia have a much more electric guitar and chorus driven sound on "Paint It Golden," but still manage to make an album that sounds beyond beautiful. The best thing about Lydia is they can start a song like "Hailey" with very depressing and borderline morbid lyrics but because of the warm vocals and the atmospheric sound it ends up being one of the most heartwarming and beautiful songs of the year. Lydia is essentially one of the only bands today that have a sound that can make death beautiful, that can make a two minute song in atmospheric experience, and that can make nearly every type of song flow together with the last song. The flow on this album is based off guitar riff instead of piano riffs and based of open optimism instead of chaptered darkness. But the main ingredients that made "Illuminate" so great are here: the track by track flow of the album, the beautiful sound of the album, the simple yet brilliant lyrics, and the high quality of the songs individual.
Even though the album does not have as many classic songs and breathtaking moments as "Illuminate," every song on "Paint It Golden" is solid and the album as a whole is more catchy than "Illuminate." "Hailey," is the perfect opener for the album: it has dark lyrics yet is one of the warmest songs of the year, it has a catchy chorus yet a chorus that is filled with distorted vocals, and it is desperate feel while still remaining laid back. "Dragging Your Feet In The Mud," "Eat Your Heart Out," "Get It Right," and "Best Nights" are four of the catchiest tracks of the year and they do not abandon the beauty and flow that made "Illuminate" a classic album. "Ghosts" is the most experimental song Lydia has done to date and even though it abandons most of their previously successful sounds it is still a solid song. "Birds" is a great summarization of the album as it is a gorgeous song driven by piano, electric guitar, and simply profound lyrics.
Lydia are a pretty bland and mediocre when they make themselves just another indie band like they did on "Assailants." But Lydia are at their best when they are a band of complete contradictions. "Illuminate" and "Paint It Golden" are albums of complete contradictions and are both albums that are at least superb. They are both albums that have some of the darkest lyrics yet some of the most beautiful lyrics, they are both albums were every song sounds different yet all of the songs flow together perfectly, they are both albums that would be average if they were made by any other artists but are near classics when they are made by Lydia. The only difference between the two albums is in the types of sounds and the feeling that both albums give you. "Illuminate" was dark piano driven chapter book and "Paint It Golden" is a golden painted dark yet optimistic open book. Now we just have to hope that Lydia sticks around long enough to fill this open book up with more great albums.