Music: Lovelace loving Loveless
Free Press Music Columnist
For a music festival best-known for breaking new talent, South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, looked more like an AARP convention this year. With the biggest buzz reserved for grunge gods Soundgarden (whose SXSW show found them playing their best-known album in its entirety 20 years after it was released), Gary Numan (who turned 50 five years ago), Damon Albarn (who turns 50 in four years) and Blondie (who got their start as a band when Damon Albarn was 5 years old and Gary Numan was 15!), this year’s SXSW seemed more about rediscovering something lost than uncovering something new.
That being said, there were still some diamonds to be found gleaming through the glare of old star shine. Phox, Sylvan Esso and Hurray For The Riff Raff all made big impressions — and all with soulful, big-voiced female singers who you’ll almost certainly be hearing more from soon enough.
Another big-voiced, soulful singer also impressed many at SXSW this year. Lydia Loveless isn’t brand new to the music scene; her latest full-length album, “Somewhere Else” (released on Feb. 18), is her third since 2010. But she hasn’t yet broken through as many believe she is destined to do. If talent truly plays a part in being successful in today’s pop music world, Lydia Loveless is poised for greatness.
Often compared to Neko Case for her powerful, full-throated voice, Loveless’ songs are sometimes categorized as country. But with the new album, Loveless has cast aside easy genre classification in favor of strong, propulsive songs that would fit a rock playlist while still keeping a toe in more rootsy waters. Like her last album, “Indestructible Machine,” “Somewhere Else” plays like the forlorn wail of a wild child with boundary issues and a self-destructive streak. The protagonists of Loveless’ songs lead messy but passion-brimmed lives. They make mistakes, they bawl their eyes out, then they pick up and keep moving.
But unlike those on the earlier album, the songs on “Somewhere Else” show a more mature presence. Loveless’ characters may still be drinking too much, loving too much, saying too much … but now they know they won’t live forever this way.
“Indestructible Machine” posed the problem of finding love and acceptance in a world turned against both, but in “Somewhere Else” we can see the first glimmer of an answer to that problem.
Loveless wrote (or, in the case of “Head,” co-wrote with her guitarist) nine of the album’s 10 songs. (A sweet cover of Kristy MacColl’s “They Don’t Know” ends the record on a timelessly jangly note.) Although its tracks show the influence of many older acts, from REM to Fleetwood Mac (and Loveless’ original “Hurts So Bad” definitely echoes the Little Anthony and the Imperials classic, “Hurt So Bad”), “Somewhere Else” is the product of a new and original voice in American music.
If you like your singers loud, proud and unbowed, you’re going to love Lydia Loveless.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog. He also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog: http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog. You may find him on Facebook as well.
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