LAKE’s comprehensive pop vision has always been anchored in an honest mournfulness, a sensitivity to nature, and the vulnerability of life. These mark LAKE’s more downtempo, contemplative grooves, which are given their fullest voice yet on The World Is Real (KLP246), LAKE’s fourth album for K and sixth overall. It follows 2008’s Oh, the Places We’ll Go, 2009’s Let’s Build A Roof, and 2011’s Giving & Receiving, and was similarly recorded at Dub Narcotic Studio at K headquarters in their hometown of Olympia, Washington.
The songwriting partnership of Ashley Eriksson and Eli Moore is the locus of LAKE’s creative engine, but the additional members are as integral and longstanding. They are the diversely talented Andrew Dorsett, Markly Morisson, and Lindsay Schief. The creative sound that surrounds LAKE is storied in collaboration, sonic adventure and an allegiance to exploring the limits of crafting pop songs. They have toured, recorded and allied with some of the most pioneering figures in contemporary independent music: R. Stevie Moore, Chris Cohen, Karl Blau, and Phil Elverum’s Mt. Eerie, for example.
Lead track “Do You Recall?” offers wide and subtle nods to working-class 80’s classics like Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane,” or Hornsby’s “The Way It Is.” Featuring drum machine and nostalgic guitar riffs, the lead and group vocals float through droning synths like wind to a bounded world.
“Dog in the Desert” one of the album’s centerpieces, was initially inspired by the text-works of conceptual artist, Richard Long, and his “art made by walking in landscapes” (richardlong.org). Eriksson’s voice, and the dark plodding instrumentation of the song, take Long’s images and shape them into a meditation on abandonment, loss and reconciliation with nature.
Tellingly, the earthbound bass groove on “Dog in the Desert” is a quotation of Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” It is not the only song to directly “live sample” Fagen and Becker: “Perfect Fit” mashes up the chordal rhythms of “Peg” to excellent effect. It’s clear that LAKE enjoys to boldly tread and rework the classics in this way, most notably in Mark Morrison’s first personal LAKE offering “Takin’ My Time,” a direct reference to the Isley Brothers song “Caravan of Love.” This smooth R&B pop seducer – a wild crowd favorite at LAKE’s local Olympia outings – is a bit of an aside from The World Is Real’s more meditative core.
Other highlights on The World Is Real: “Bury the House” takes its 60’s styled psychedelic setting for a playful, self-deprecating riff on LAKE’s own new age-y ideals: “Bury the house / under the garden / make an attempt to go outside.” “Composure” and “I Wish For You” have the pop attributes of Pet Sounds and Smile era Beach Boys – faintly forlorn, but still warm and sweet. And the community oriented compassion exhibited by LAKE’s members is beautifully summarized in the opening lines of album closer “Reconcile”: “How do we exist under the sun but not in bliss? / What could have been? / Act on it.”
Lovers of hybrid pop will hear the bright whirring electronic keys that notably set McCartney II apart from the rest of Paul’s catalog, as well as the bittersweet organ and keyboard influence of Yo La Tengo, and the minimalist funk of Talking Heads on this record. However, precise comparison is difficult: The World is Real avoids easy genre comparisons. An album full of the articulation of discontent and loss, LAKE captures these emotions in tandem with the pop music joys they have so expertly reigned in for many years.
Tracklist: Do You Recall? / Bury The House / Combat Culture / Composure / Go Back / Dog In The Desert / Perfect Fit / Takin’ My Time / I Wish For You / In The Stubborn Eyes Of A Demon / Reconcile
K Records KLP246LP