Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Album Review: Won't Be There by Luke Reed (2017) (Label: The Native Sound)

Luke Reed is well known on the Boston, MA indie-pop scene featuring  in two of the regions more acclaimed indie-pop bands, Bent Shapes and Mini Dresses.

He has also had muted critical acclaim from the recent Singles EP that he released with Tea Leigh (on The Native Sound) and for the bedroom-pop releases that he has regularly posted on Soundcloud since mid 2015.

The Native Sound label have recognized this critical acclaim and released an expanded  reissue (initially issued in early 2016) and I am sure it has exceeded all expectations in terms of the plaudits it has collected. 

Reddit contributors are assigning glowing reference points such as Mac DeMarco / Elliot Smith / Ariel Pink whilst other accolades include the following comments from two blogs that I follow with respect:

From Gorilla vs Bear

It’s an endlessly listenable and pleasant collection of dreamy, heartfelt lo-fi guitar pop that often belies its breezy, summery disposition with a more poignant and wistfully bittersweet side...

Whilst the excellent Austin Town Hall ramps up the accolades from the mere good to the seemingly 'ordained'

....but Reed soon moves into heavenly pop territory. It reminds me of the quieter side of indiepop, the kind of pop best suited to soothing introverts.

So with such critical acclaim from two reliable favourites, I popped over to Bandcamp for an expectant listen.

Within five tracks, I was immediately reminded that the dominant essence of this artist is the whole bedroom-pop aesthetic and that the very essence of this genre is that it is incredibly self-indulgent and as such can regularly be a tad irritating.

After all what could be more self-indulgent that a person sitting in their bedroom producing tracks (that I romantically imagine as being recorded on 1970's hand held recording equipment, inherited from a cool uncle) that are all about them. The genre, by its very essence, is designed to nourish the ego's of the shy, socially inept under-achievers among us without ever forcing the need to venture more than five feet away from the safety of your bed.

Unfortunately this opening batch of tracks does nothing to dispel my awful general-isms. Reed noodles away at the guitar with seemingly little purpose, mumbling about how  he wants to have someone else's life as all his parents do is talk about my life ( in the track Lose) and in the intensely lo-fi track Watching TV, where he concludes that he is simply pathetic.

In fact this opening third of the album is only saved by the initial track (see below) which perhaps hinted at the remote possibility that something better is available further down the track list.

Then, suddenly, there is the sort of startling transformation to the album that had me rushing to my wallet, scrabbling around looking for a credit card that was not expired or over its limit and buying a lovely looking svelte black cassette from Bandcamp.

The transformation begins at track six with the excellent General Health. Here Reed suddenly injects some energy into his music, backing Hamell on Trial style vocals to the some beautiful melodic guitar work. Of course, the self indulgent lyrics about his mental and general health are still there, but the insistence of the melody means this is quickly forgiven.

The jangle of it all is then stepped up another gear in the next track All My Life, which is dominated mid-way through the track by a completely left-field rock guitar riff and then quickly replaced by a beautifully strummed jangle style melody in the background. 

Now it all begins to happen from a guitar pop perspective with a Close Lobsters style chiming guitar married to a barely audible Baxter Drury type vocal delivery on Pathetic (see below) .The track is the best thing on the album by far and is truly one of the great unheralded tracks of 2017. 

The release continues with its newly found consistent quality throughout the remainder of the album visiting notable guitar/jangle-pop hotspots such as Chronic Town REM in I Need You and any number of late 80's British post-punk references in You Don't Need Me.

By the end of the album I had completely forgotten the awful start to the album and cannot wait to get hold of that lovely little black cassette and caress / show it to uninterested people as is the want of us 'physical format' people...even if it is only bedroom-pop .

Artist Links

The Native Sound (Twitter)

The Native Sound Website

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