Review of Imagine Our Love Album by Lavender Diamond

Lavender Diamond
Imagine Our Love
Album Review

Lavender Diamond Imagine Our Love Album

What to make of a band whose singer frequently sports fairy wings onstage? Such whimsical ostentation could come across as over-cloying tweeness were it not for the sheer quality of the songs on this debut album from the Californian folk-pop four-piece. Throughout the disc we are treated to myriad ruminations on love, truth and beauty, furnished with sumptuous strings and piano prettiness. The cherry on top of this particular cake, crystalline-voiced Becky Stark (she of the fairy wings) is capable of reaching notes that are far out of the range of most singers, yet the songwriting is assured enough to not have to rely on her classically-trained chops to make an impression. The band's name could nevertheless be seen as a reference to the qualities of Stark's voice - when in full flow she reaches a rare purity that should surely be measured in carats; when she pares things down the effect is a luxurious scented dreamstate.

Indeed, it is often the slower whispered tracks that draw the listener further in. 'Garden Rose' is a woozy porchsong morsel, sounding for all the world like an old mountain folk classic collected from an earlier time. 'Bring Me A Song' is a delicate waltz redolent of Regina Spektor ("Day after day love comes and goes / Why won't it stay? God only knows") but despite a gorgeous spun-sugar opening the song is mishandled thanks to two clunky key changes that aim towards epic but fall short. Meanwhile 'I'll Never Lie Again' starts off in dark Mazzy Star monochrome before an orchestral introduction hints towards an air of 'Out Of Time'-era R.E.M..Stark's exquisite delivery is nonetheless most notably demonstrated on 'Dance Until It's Tomorrow', lifting one of the album's more pedestrian songs to heights it might not quite deserve thanks to an extraordinary Minnie Ripperton-esque ascendancy during the bridge.

Throughout the record repetition of lyrics helps to keep the folky feel - it doesn't work on 'Like An Arrow' however - despite a more robust backing the title's mantra just doesn't take off to anywhere in particular and it's a weak point in the album. Final track 'When You Wake For Certain' nearly suffers a similar fate - what is an attempt at anthemic narrowly avoids coming across as a dearth of ideas. Luckily these moments are few, and when the repetition is more successful, as with opening track 'Oh No''s "when will I love again?" refrain, the effect borders on the epiphanic. An insistent drumbeat increasing in tempo adds further to the endorphin rush. Paired with 'Garden Rose' it's a marvellous double to start the album. Make that a brilliant one-two-three, as 'Open Your Heart' is an immediate pop rush; an infectious hopscotch with a relentless propulsive rhythm mirrored in the restless nature of the lyrics - "when you have to go where are you running to, where are you running to?" At the other end of the album 'Here Comes One' is the other big singalong, with Stark's delivery drenched in barely-contained childish glee. It's maybe a shame that such a keen pop nous is not displayed further as these two songs are sure to grab the listener's attention, and possibly move their feet not a little in the process.

It's no surprise that the band have been compared in some circles to Arcade Fire; while Imagine Our Love is a significantly slighter beast than anything the Canadian giants have released there is a similar celebratory communal spirit coursing through the album's veins, especially during such moments as 'Find A Way's ecstatic crescendo. Stark's sometimes piercing voice certainly won't be to everyone's taste (especially given the album's relatively bright mix), and there are occasions when the arrangements descend into whimsy, but there is enough variation and quality amongst the songs for everyone to find something to love here. A hugely impressive debut.

Owen Lloyd

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