Lydia – Paint It Golden
Record Label: None
Release Date: October 4, 2011
It’s hard to believe it has been three years since we first experienced Illuminate. Carrying Lydia to even greater heights than This December; It’s One More and I’m Free, their sophomore record was – and still is – simply a masterpiece. The tender sincerity, dynamic layering, stunning vocal harmonies – the record speaks for itself and holds a monumental, immovable place in many of our hearts.
And then things changed. The beloved Mindy White decided to part ways with the band, and shortly after, Lydia announced their final tour, “The Lydia Finale: A Goodbye & Farewell Tour," and plans to release Assailants, their tragic farewell.
With Assailants, the fact that Lydia was no more really hit; it was painful, yet in a beautiful, bittersweet way. While it didn’t quite reach the elevation of Illuminate, Assailants was a fond farewell, at that. It was short and sweet, allowing fans to digest the seven songs on their own, making it painfully evident that the end of Lydia had officially arrived.
However, fast forward a year and the impossible happened: Leighton Antelman and Craig Taylor announced that they were going to rebuild and continue Lydia together. And so, Paint It Golden is the return of Lydia.
A somber piano opens “Hailey” as we return to the dying love of Illuminate: “I got what I wanted / They bled out my organs / They cut me wide open til I grinned / I guess it’s time / Doctors came right in / Said he most likely won’t live.” And just like that, we are back. Rather than being surrounded with the painful breakup and dying love as Illuminate and December were, Paint It Golden allows us to witness renewal, rebirth, even acceptance: “Hailey, if you’re out there, I hope you made it through December.”
As we continue to witness the new life of the dying man, hope seems to prevail this time as he is brought back to life. Soft piano play flurries throughout the glimmering harmonies on “Dragging Your Feet In The Mud” as we witness this new view first hand: “I guess I finally feel like I deserve it / You know I got to make a point though / I got to make it worth it / Cause if it happened, it happened…You got to let it go.” This painful acceptance accents the shining image of hope and a new beginning.
Sure, there are still times where anger surfaces, but hope always overcomes the pain throughout Paint It Golden. Paced with elegant piano play and soothing drumming, the bitter “Eat Your Heart Out” is riddled with emotion, as the failed past relationship still troubles the mind: “And I know it’s not worth it / When I see her alone / It makes my heart sick / Even though I know it’s pointless.” At times like this we can feel the still-aching heartbreak. On what may be the most chilling moment on the record, “Ghosts” presents us with the same conflict riddled throughout Illuminate: “Cause when I’m dead and I’m gone / Just burn me up to the sun / I got a couple more years here / I want nothing but you, dear.” This conflicted mindset and melancholy is gripping, stunning, and ultimately haunting.
The instrumental and dynamic layering throughout the record adds to this despairing hope, as noted throughout “Get It Right.” Atmospheric percussion and chilling piano inclusions send chills on “Skin+Bones,” following “Ghosts” with perhaps even more unnerving content than on the former: “Yeah I found out I’ve been out of my mind for some time / But come on, you knew that / You know where my head has been at.” These riveting proclamations pull us further into the mind of Antelman, as he still struggles with the past and finding his footing in the present.
The final image, nonetheless, is one of hope on “Birds.” Over calming piano touches and intricate vocal structure, hope floats through this new beginning, through this revival: “Now I’m a mess / I gotta change how I’m thinking / Change me around / I’m all yours / So come on, gimme all you got now, birds / So come on, you know I’ve seen your worst.” It’s references to past material – this reference to various points on Illuminate and the aforementioned reference to “December” on the opening “Hailey” – that really tie Paint It Golden into Lydia’s previous work, allowing fans to further feel connected.
And so it ends, as all things must. Whereas Illuminate was a cathartic, at times painfully emotional record, Paint It Golden is just what the title implies: a new beginning within a breath of fresh air. It is a record of optimistic, yes, but the scarring pain of the past still lingers throughout the experience, making it all the more emotional and personal. While no, this record may not be Illuminate Pt. 2, would we really want it to be? Rather, it’s a special reunion; it’s a golden welcome back.
I feel like this is a grower. I've only listened to the record three times so far and it hasn't hit me yet. I loved Illuminate and This December so much. Assailants was okay. But regardless, I don't know why. The lyrics don't even stick out to me. So many curses and "yeah's". I just really hope it grows on me.