Monday, June 13, 2011

Imagine Our Love - Lavender Diamond

Imagine Our Love
Lavender Diamond
Matador OLE 752-1

I recently saw Lavender Diamond in concert.  It was a tremendous show, the band did a set of all new numbers, aside from the encore.  The new songs blew me away, I can hardly wait for them to put out a new album.  That was a real treat since I was wondering if Lavender Diamond would ever make music together again.  Inspired by the show, I've been playing this treasured LP quite a bit.  I never get tired of it.  Becky Stark is an extraordinary performer.  When I first started hearing her songs on the radio, I wondered if she was putting me on, if this was some sort of performance art type thing.  Her persona, a mixture of Melanie's hippie innocence with Cat Power's emotional vulnerability with Tori Amos' artistic integrity with Joni Mitchell's poetic insight on top of a set of pipes worthy of an opera singer, she just seemed too good to be true.  I was wrong though, she is definitely the real thing, an authentic musical treasure right here in plastic superficial Southern California.  She is such a dominating, overwhelming figure, I never really noticed how good the band was until I saw them live, particularly pianist Steve Gregoropoulos whose fluid solos are achingly beautiful.  There are only 3 guys in the band, but when they get going they really rock.  This is a great act, if they ever come to your town, you owe it to yourself to check them out.  If you don't leave the show with a giant smile on your face, then you have no heart.  As for this record, it ought to put a smile on your face as well.  If you just glance at the lyrics, the songs seem almost absurdly simple, yet when Stark sings them, they become powerful anthems.  I think Stark's strategy is to write basic, heartfelt songs that have a strong direct appeal to the listener promoting her message of the transcendent power of love.  Given that she studied Russian Literature and Semiotics at Brown University, I'm sure Stark is perfectly capable of writing complicated lyrics, but I think she has chosen to emphasize the heart over the brain, for me her songs are like hymns of hope and feeling.  In this age of irony and distance, this music has a special value to me.  It is not whiny emo or self-absorbed confessional music, it is an artist reaching out to the public with her message of fulfillment through being true to your heart.  There is a wide variety of music on this record.  There are sad, lovelorn songs like "Oh No" and "My Shadow Is A Monday."  There is exuberant sunshine pop like "Open Your Heart" and "Here Comes One" which are guaranteed to lift your spirits.  There is a country feel to "Garden Rose" and "Side of the Lord" the latter of which reveals Stark's feminist side and her ambivalence about religion.  I believe I read somewhere that her mother is a minister which makes sense when you listen to this song.  "Like an Arrow" sounds like a tribal dance song and even comes with dance instructions.  When I tried them out, I felt like one of the Supremes!  The sound of this album is consistently lovely.  "I'll Never Lie Again" has some exquisite string arrangements and the vocals on "Dance Until Tomorrow," "When You Wake For Certain" and the inspirational "Find A Way" are mesmerizingly gorgeous.  "Bring Me A Song" is my favorite song on the record.  Lines like "Bring me a song, Something to feel, Bring me a song, Please make it real" make this the ideal Lavender Diamond theme song.  I think Lavender Diamond is one of the most interesting new groups around and I'm so thrilled they are making music again.  Becky Stark is a true original.  Recommended to anyone who wants to open their heart with their mind (and ears).

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