Five years into an oft-overlooked career, Lydia Loveless has crafted the album of her career. Lydia, who? Wait, you mean you’ve never heard of her? Jocularity aside, Loveless has flown under the radar the duration of her career despite being a critical darling. Let’s hope Somewhere Else is the album that changes that tide.
The album opens with “Really Wanna See You,” a dusty Midwestern rocker that perfectly encapsulates Loveless’ hybrid of honky-tonk country and spiky punk rock. As its title implies it’s a simple paean to pursuing a new love but delivered in a way that is both urgent, desperate and accessible. Whether or not its an intentional post-script, the teetering mid-tempo effort “Wine Lips” finds Loveless once again pining for a potential beau, even admitting “I went too far, like I always do.”
The album’s first apex moment is “Chris Isaak” a confident confessional that roars from the very first note. The strength of Loveless is her soaring vocals and “Chris Isaak” is the first song in which she towers, triumphs and absolutely catapults her to the top of the female singer-songwriter playing field. Not content to slow down she barrels forward with “To Love Somebody,” a sturdy yearner that finds her frustrated, worn down and at wit’s end. Loveless closes out Side A with “Hurts So Bad,” a mid-tempo effort that finds Loveless channeling Lucinda Williams in relating a tale of heartache. Arguably one of the stronger songs on the album, “Hurts So Bad” is so familiar and yet so powerful. And that’s the beauty of Loveless, even though we’ve heard hundreds of songs analogous to “Hurts So Bad,” the Ohio songwriter has a way of making it work and never once does it sound boring, derivative or forgettable.
Side Be opens with “Head,” a big-hearted bar-room rocker with ample amounts of charm and as expected, first-rate execution. Whether the credit goes to Loveless, co-producer Joe Viers or Loveless’ top-notch session band, the song absolutely owns from the very first seconds. Arguably the best song on the disc is the timeless “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud,” another lovestruck ballad that marries her affection for her potential mate with the French poet’s murderous attempt at his one-time lover. While it’s a stunning and confusing parallel it certainly proves that Loveless is well-read and never shy of taking a chance. The steel guitar-driven title track follows and is a triumph in every sense of the word. Loveless is blessed in that her timbre allows every utterance and intonation to resonate with not only passion but conviction and empathy. So many artists sound as if they’re mailing it in on a record, almost as if the songs are not their own. With Loveless that is never the case and the title track is veritable proof of that.
Penultimate cut “Everything’s Gone” in essence serves as one of the album’s only ballads. Being that she’s a fan of hard-charging rock it’s certainly no shock that Loveless shies away from the downtempo variety, but that’s certainly disappointing as “Everything’s Gone” proves much like “Chris Isaak” that there are few contemporaries like her. She is in many ways, a peerless talent. While much of Somewhere Else navigates heartbreak, new love and lust, “Everything’s Gone” visits depression, disappointment and the vagaries of life’s brutal seasons. As much as it may sting to end on a bitter note, the album in many ways should have stopped there. Instead it carries forward with “They Don’t Know” a song which doesn’t differ much from its predecessors and offers very little to the album’s overarching narrative. That small gripe aside, Somewhere Else has few if any flaws.
The great takeaway from Somewhere Else is that it was made by a 23-year-old. Like its predecessor Indestructible Machine, the album belies her age and finds the singer churning out songs that are wise beyond her years. Alas, this is probably your first time seeing Loveless’ name and that’s fine. Just know this, before it’s all said and done, Lydia Loveless is going to make her mark in the annals of recorded music. Her discography already speaks to that very fact and none say it better than Somewhere Else.