Saturday, June 3, 2023

CD Odyssey Disc 1647: Lera Lynn

I’m a day into a week off work to recharge my batteries. It got off to a lovely start yesterday with some drinks out with friends, and today I’m looking forward to more of the same. In between there’ll be a bit of lunch, a few chores (no day being perfect) and writing this review.

Which brings us back to a little place I like to call right now.

Disc 1647 is…Something More than Love

Artist: Lera Lynn

Year of Release: 2022

What’s up with the Cover?  The ultra-beautiful Lera Lynn looks out through some kind of gauzy curtain. It looks a bit like when you start watching a Netflix show before the high resolution kicks in.

A face like this shouldn't be hidden behind a gauzy current, making the cover a harbinger of what to expect musically. More on that below.

How I Came To Know It: I have been a Lera Lynn fan since first hearing her on the soundtrack from the second season of True Detective back in 2015. This was just me buying her latest release.

How It Stacks Up: I have seven Lera Lynn albums. “Something More than Love” sits at #7. Hey, something has to be last.

Rating: 2 stars

Over the last seven years or so Lera Lynn has been creatively drifting away from me, and while there are moments on “Something More than Love” that flashed for me, overall it felt like another step apart from what I like most in her music. Lynn continues to expand and explore her sound as any good artist should, so there’s no fault to be had. Sometimes people just grow apart. It’s not you, Lera, it’s me.

Lynn has always had a sultry, lounge quality to her particular intersection of pop and country, and on “The Avenues” (Disc 792) and the True Detective Soundtrack (Disc 942) these elements are perfectly mixed. 2020’s “On My Own” (Disc 1453) is another success, although I suspect this is aided by the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

“Something More Than Love” seems to have lost this magic formula. The songs have good bones, and the melodic structures are interesting, reminding me a bit of a throwback to Suzanne Vega’s records from the early nineties. Unfortunately, they are layered with a thick soundscape production that makes everything feel like smooth jazz. It sounded like Sade, who is an artist I have never appreciated, in large part for this reason. Lynn was always Sade-adjacent but previous to this did not cross the line. Now she has.

A good example of this is the annoying drum machine sound on “Eye in the Sky” which, in addition to the irksome production, further disappointed by not being a cover of the awesome Allan Parsons Project song of the same name. Lera would totally kill that cover but alas…no. Maybe on a future record.

There are some winners on the record to be sure. The opening track, “Illusion” makes the ambient production work in a groovy kind of way, like a Leonard Cohen tune off his “The Future” era. This song also brings Lera Lynn’s not-so-secret weapon - her smoky and evocative vocals - to the fore. “Cog in the Machine” also strips things down sufficiently to let the songwriting and vocals take center stage as they should. Washing them down in the mix on so many of the other songs is disappointing.

Lynn continues to have a strong emotional reaction to being a new mother. These are not usually the kind of songs that win me over, but it’s been known to happen. Dori Freeman’s “Like I Do”  demonstrates how to do it right. Lynn’s “You Are Not Your Own” with lines like “I grew a man from my rib/and he walks beside me” should be a great start to a deep exploration of motherhood, but whether it was where the song went lyrically from there, or just that Sade soup of sound, it never hit me the way it clearly wanted to.

Did I give this record the chance it deserved? It is a subtle record, and I admit that I listened to it a lot in the car with the top down (albeit at high volume). However, I also gave it at least one full listen walking around with headphones, which on balance gave it an even opportunity to win me over. I liked it better in that environment but overall the record fell short of what it could have been with a different approach.

Best tracks: Illusion, Cog in the Machine

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