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Lendway | Giant Places

album review by John Powell

Lendway | Giant Places

Many bands set out to make catchy hooks, and the majority of indie groups scour their creative caverns for unique twists of the conventional, lacing old school simplicity with new noises. Few bands, however, can produce a sound purely euphoric and all around beautiful. Burlington, Vermont’s Lendway’s shoegazer second release, Giant Places, is one of the prettiest and most engaging albums to come out of 2011. Developing a somewhat timeless rove of hums and whirs and dripping with poetic lyrics, Giant Places is a masterpiece of contemporary composition.

An immediate comparison is Mercury Rev, who perfected vocal harmonies with repetitive instrumentation that grows slowly, builds, and releases. Lendway’s Michael Clifford sounds much like Rev’s Grasshopper- a truly good voice, but grippingly odd. Lendway took everything good that came out of shoegazer originators like The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, and stripped away the fuzz, leaving a flowering garden of musicality.

“Ready to Race” opens the album, punctuated by a two-chord guitar part, bass following in the shadows, and Michael singing, “You won’t get very far/going the wrong way.” Later he asks, “Are you ready to race? Because I’m ready to race.” The song fills the speakers. Todd Gevry’s drums are immediately recognizable as Lendway’s strongest weapon, vaporizing silence and swishing the speakers with energy.

“Gunslinger” is a faster song, with Fisherspooner bass and guitar reminiscent of radio-ready Tom Petty, only muddled by effects. Matt Hagen’s lead guitar work scorches. He utilizes electric guitar feedback and pedal play, focused on the acute sensuality of electric guitar and not hampered by volume or speed. The instrumental rock bridge here pulverizes. “Grandpa’s undemanding armchair,” Michael sings, “Rocking back and forth/with no one there.”

The song gives way to “You’re Safe With Us”, a gloomier rework of Neil Young’s Crosby Stills and Nash days, with ethereal voices on a windy melody. Again, Todd’s drums are relentlessly intentional. “Take Your Gold Away” has the same slow tempo, but is more glorious, Kevin Lynman’s bass slightly funkier.

But the ultimate experience is “Gone With Eraser”, a song so perfect that that its rivals wouldn’t even stand a chance. The two guitars enter with palm-muted accuracy, and then Matt’s guitar pulls out the whammy bar, causing a slurring uptempo. Todd’s complex drum pattern feels like a lusting heartbeat. “Hold my thoughts on record,” Michael sings. “Untie each ocean/loosen the undertow.” The song is ecstasy. It’s the epitome of their sound and the height of the album.

The closer, “Windows Down”, is nearly as excellent. Sometimes, like “Gone With Eraser”, the lyrics are good, but disjointed, whereas, here the uplifting message is clear. “It’s so sunny/take the day off,” Michael sings. “Convince yourself that work is done.” The boys are great with backing vocals. Ooh and ahhs throughout the album add layers to the onion of notes already existing.

In the right hands, Giant Spaces could have lasting affects, turning people on to the shoegazer love of intentional noise, or the loveliness of letting go. Lendway don’t even know what they have going for them. As mentioned, fourteen songs of beauty is hard to pull off, and few pull it off as easily as this quartet on Giant Places.

Bottom line: A masterpiece of soundscape, cohesiveness, and beauty.



0 # Edwin 2011-12-09 01:11
Just a head's up, you referred to the album as Giant 'Spaces' in the first paragraph ;)


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