Lydia
Illuminate


5.0
classic

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
July 22nd, 2018 | 43 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's just the season on your back.

It's the idea of synchronicity, when two separate pieces of art come together so tangibly that they're forever entwined, and having one without the other seems, at best, incomplete and at worst straight up disrespectful. For me, that's Illuminate and its cover art. I go on a quick flip through my memory banks through your basic 'greatest of all time' album artworks – Wish You Were Here was always better than Dark Side of the Moon and the art reflects it; Illmatic's cover is shorthand for classic hip-hop as much as the actual music; Siamese Dream represents the duality of the album more perfectly than you could have dreamed, and so on – but none of them actually mould the album to their image the way Illuminate's does. I'm almost tempted to buy the vinyl just to frame it without ever feeling the desire to listen to the music, because the whole thing is right there: the little girl holding her umbrella against the changing seasons, faceless because she's a cipher of a carefree and childlike wonder that we can't attain again.

I say almost, because artwork and over-deep interpretations of it aside, this is just damn good music. Illuminate is a warm spot in the late autumn where the leaves have left a little clearing. It is sentimental, a little overblown, heart and disappointment and fucking whites-of-your-eyes fury - in the case of "I Woke Up by the Sea", it's literally fucking and you will rarely hear the word spat out with more venom. Or to use the album's central words instead of mine: "it's just the season on your back, it's just the way we know to act". People disappoint, they leave with broken vows in their wake all over this album, but it's important to note that they don't really have a choice. Leighton sings these kind of lines with an inevitability you can only get when this shit happens so often it starts to feel like clockwork. And behind him always is the band. Lydia don't just pack sounds into the album, they pack worlds, each one blooming from a lightly played piano refrain or a strummed guitar or even a photographic ambience of static.

In less uncertain terms, what I mean is the songs on Illuminate are fleshed-out and lived-in. Not just musically, although harmonies and tinkles and shrapnel drums burrow their way into the corners of the music to ensure that, but emotionally, tonally. None of the tracks are content to stay where they began. "Hospital"'s keening explosion recalls the very best of emo's heart-rending choruses, but it takes more than a minute to climb its way out of a desolate ambient beginning, where Aaron Marsh's "now look, you made a fool out of love / when all we want is to be enough, when all we want is to feel enough" holds itself as an incontestable truth. "One More Day" veers the closest to outright rockin' until, mocking the music it clearly kinda wants to be, the guitar solo mutates to something carnivalesque and ridiculous, a polar opposite of how the triumphant instrumental march of "Stay Awake" unravels into the bruised delicacy of "All I See". "This is Twice Now" witnesses a thrilling transformation simply by layering in pre-existing elements; "but oh, the whole world / was still on my string" is a haughty gloat when delivered solo, but in the final minute as harmonies and conflicting lines dot the track like constellations Leighton begins to sound desperate and lonely without changing a word.

The best example would be "Now the One You Once Loved is Leaving", a seven-minute finale which gently unspools without ever feeling engineered as an album-ending epic. The song's beginning is galvanising, but it abruptly veers off into a duet between the two singers, glitchy drums clattering behind the harmonies like "Goodbye Sky Harbor" playing out in relative miniature. It's not the words that make this piece of art special - "now you're so sure that I'd be just fine here, but you were surely just taking your own time dear" could be penned by your average high school indie band – but the realisation of the thoughts, the warring emotions behind them on the canvas of music. Every second of this album has its place, and feels a part of the complete whole, even the short anxious shrug of "...Ha Yeah It Got Pretty Bad", a perfectly-titled song if ever there was one. Calling it a concept album would be a bridge too far, but the band weave themes into the fabric as delicately as master weavers. Like "All I See"'s eponymous line surfacing four songs earlier in "Hospital", or the themes of sickness which link "This is Twice Now" and "One More Day" to bookend the majority of the album, or that utterly perfect synchronicity between music and artwork, which given their post-reunion album covers should be considered outright miraculous. These things take Illuminate a tier above 11 really damn good indie songs, up to where records like Between the Heart and the Synapse or Clarity reside, where music feels purposeful and complete but never forced or overwritten.



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4.2
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

randomly inspired to write this one. thanks blush for the motivation and proofread. do not listen to this band's new album

Digging: Strange Ranger - Remembering the Rockets

Lucman
July 22nd 2018


3084 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Just listened to this for the first time the other day. Absolutely beautiful. New record sucks tho agreed.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


56894 Comments


This has been on my list forever

verdant
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


2417 Comments


ahh goodness gracious how well written ! your writing feels intimate, heartfelt but captures ideas on a grander scale so nicely - much like the album im guessing xoxo

Morningrise767
July 22nd 2018


940 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

One of my favourite albums ever : ) Great review!

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks my friends



@treb/verdant y'all better check this asap ya heard me

MyNameIsPencil
July 22nd 2018


5361 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm shocked you hadn't gotten around to reviewing this sooner, but pos if you weren't already staff

theBoneyKing
July 22nd 2018


17076 Comments


Great review Rowbro! You make me intrigued to hear this but I’m a bit scared to try it lest it be another Gang of Youths or The Middle East.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


9940 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well hey, didn't expect to see another review for this. Great tribute to something that clearly means a lot to you, definitely a wonderful album in its own right.

Digging: Sparrows - Failed Gods

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


7866 Comments


Alright fine I'm finally going to listen to this today
Also hot damn Row what a review, beautiful writing

Digging: We Are Only Human Once - The Prettiest Boys in Town

Atari
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


24843 Comments


Yeah, killer review. The way you closed out the first paragraph is just outstanding

I haven’t heard this in like 10 years but you’ve convinced me to revisit their music

Digging: Oso Oso - Basking in the glow

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


7866 Comments


....that first track was absolutely magnificent, high hopes for this

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2018


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

sputnik has been sleeping (well) on this album damn



@atari revisit this, December, maybe Devil at a pinch but ignore the rest lol



@Boney you can safely skip this one man

theBoneyKing
July 22nd 2018


17076 Comments


Yeah I came to the same conclusion after sampling some parts of this on YouTube - soon as I heard the vocals I knew it wasn’t for me.

tacos n stuff
July 22nd 2018


3177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is fuego, Sleep Well is love

Digging: death's dynamic shroud.wmv - I'll Try Living Like This

JustJoe.
July 22nd 2018


6863 Comments


This is a special record.

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 22nd 2018


31937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Great review. Album is so special to me.

Digging: Off With Their Heads - Be Good

OllieS
July 22nd 2018


2163 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

second time now and you've done this before

Digging: We Lost the Sea - Departure Songs

hogan900
July 23rd 2018


3044 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this FUCKIN record

HipFish
July 23rd 2018


42 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Random comment but the dude from your picture shops at my dispensary in Denver.



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