By Giles Turnbull
“Life? Don’t talk to me about life!” says Marvin the Paranoid Android, repeatedly, in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I harbor a suspicion that Marvin might have co-written many of the lyrics on Lakes’ debut album, The Agreement.
Admittedly it’s been a summer full of exceedingly, in some cases excruciatingly, cheerful songs. It can be quite refreshing, then, to have something a touch more melancholy; a band that’s not afraid to go out and play in the rain. It has to be said, that you can hear this even in Lakes’ attempts at being cheerful; like they’ve peeked around the corner and have seen that it’s all going to end in tears. And now they’re going to tell us about it, and enjoy doing so.
The album begins in positive spirits, briskly setting forth with lively opener, “Broadlyn.” I wouldn’t describe the vibe as optimistic, though it’s certainly forecasting a brighter outlook in the wake of a tale of carnage left behind. Popping up next comes “The Heart is an Anchor,” which is brilliant because it’s both bouncy, and trumps Forest Gump by declaring “life is a record store;” hell yeah, I’m in there all the time!
And then we reach the gooey happy center of the album, if falling a little shy of the mathematical halfway point. The contemplative “Oh Lovely” is one of those songs that simply says how wonderful it is to spend your days with somebody special, doing all those crazy things you do. Sometimes you just need a song like that, and this is up there with the best of them; it could keep company with the likes of “Patio Song” (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) or “Perfect Day” (Lou Reed) without feeling remotely awkward.
And that’s it. Well, it’s the end of all this happy nonsense; mostly anyway. Beyond this point there are a variety of tempos before winding down to a slow-paced end, but the lyrics tend to dwell on the downside of life and love. Track five, for example, sounds upbeat, like it has thrown off the specter of four’s introspective ghost, but the feeling, which gives five its name, is heartfelt pessimism, from opening words to closing refrain; no matter how catchy the tune, you can’t disguise the pain.
There remain some glimpses of brightness however. “Sweet Dreams” is a gem, lurking like a sunbeam between the stormy clouds. The infectious mandolin theme and accordion accompaniment are a light touch, and create a totally refreshing interlude; like when your broken AC struggles back to life for a few wonderfully fresh minutes, before lying back down and dying.
Occasionally there’s a hint of the band’s original incarnation as Christian pop rock band Watashi Wa. This comes through in some of the imagery, like in “Lift Me Up,” but not in a way that dominates or distracts if you weren’t looking for it.
“The Agreement Song,” from which the album derives its name, appropriately sums up this independent release, “I’ll be your score and you’ll be my symphony… I’ll be your crown, and you’ll be my gravity,” which is a great image for what this record is: a superbly written and crafted, yet down to earth album.
The Agreement is released September 3, and is available to pre-order at http://lakesband.com