Album Review
Lydia - Illuminate Album Cover

Lydia - Illuminate

Reviewed by
Lydia - Illuminate
Record Label - Linc Star Records
Release Date - March 18th, 2008
Writing about music is about bridging the disconnect. No tone, beat or verse needs an explanation because music is, in itself, an explanation of sound and passion. It's one of the more common conundrums a music critic faces: How do you illustrate something that is already done and painted? How do you rationalize with words and criticism when the sequences, notes and lines are already aware of what they do, how they work and the desire and despair they employ.

This is where I sit with Lydia's sophomore full-length, Illuminate. In fact, I've been sitting with this album for weeks, flinging around words like cheap hooker shots. This is my third take (or fourth, if you count that time I attempted to write from an "altered" state) at giving Illuminate a shakedown. Through all these exchanges, there are a several points that I've been able to finalize.

1. Illuminate is a full album, and not just because it's eleven tracks and 15 minutes shy of an hour. The release isn't about singles, but several tracks administer fine on their own (see "I Woke Up Near The Sea" and "One More Day"). No melodic line or layer sequence is quite the same, but they all work in a correlative pulsating atmospheric crunch. Beginning with the prophetic, tickling keys of "This Is Twice Now" to the expansive and varied 7-minute ender, "Now The One You Once Loved Is Leaving," this album should be digested in whole passes.

2. The most obvious spine of note for Lydia is in their musicianship. On "Hospital," singer and guitarist Leighton Antelman starts off with distant, echoing vocals. The song glides into a dreamy stroke by Aaron Marsh of Copeland: "Now look, you've made a fool out of love/When all we want is to be enough/When all we want is to feel enough." The line is of a different texture than the rest of the track, a story about keeping faith in a love that "still not quite the way it was." The song is now a weightier anecdote, and it's done in less than 20 seconds. A stunning moment, if my words will allow.

3. The only reservation I can dig up about Illuminate is Mindy White's vocals, which I find graceful but unmoving. Her voice is soft and small, and although it is graceful as a back-up, she doesn't fire enough gusto as the lead on "The Once You Once Loved Is Leaving" to coo me in. Even on Antelman-lead tracks, her addition is a major thread to the Lydia fabric. For most of Illuminate, I feel as though she is holding back.

4. The overall explanation of these notes and their tricks is in Lydia's layering, which is a trademark and paragon of their musical thumbs. Every track on Illuminate consists of sheets and sheets of elements so that each song is like sedimentary rock, stocked with ideas that have been worked and re-worked to infuse and dribble into one another seamlessly. It's another mark of the band's musicianship, and it's a lot to internalize. A listener has be ready to spend time sifting through Antelman's breathy poignancy, shimmering, spacy and delayed guitars, and labyrinthine piano work. Keen production from Matt Malpass promotes this mazy and wandering structure, maintaining the complexities of Illuminate. Even so, Malpass keeps Antelman's voice up-front and personal, maintaining the connectivity between lyric and note. This is something the band's 2005 release, This December; It's One More and I'm Free, wasn't able to achieve as effectively.

But here is where my words fail to create an all-encompassing concept; there is so much here to consider, I'm finding it impossible to sum it up for you. The tone on the beginning notes of "A Fine Evening For A Rogue" are bright and lucky, but the song transitions into the piano-led chorus of repeated phrase "Don't you ever get lonely?" The sampling and vocal backing towards the end of the song are big like movie moments, wavering in and out of down-trodden and hopeful accents. In just one song, Lydia flirts with several emotional tones. Take "Sleep Well" too - along with slight alt-country plucking, the majority of this track is positive with bouncy percussion. Then, during the last minute, the song is tinged with regret and recluse. "One More Day", busting with a playful but haunting piano and guitar duo towards the end, transcends into darker human nature when it leeways into "...Ha, Yeah It Got Pretty Bad". I'd like to quick stamp Illuminate, but I can only dig up musings and several spirits. For an effort that works as a cohesive piece in sound and melody, complete only by one through eleven, it's an odd contradiction.

This is a huge responsibility for one release, something that I think Lydia handles very well, especially considering their small discography. Antelman is a remarkable frontman. The wizardry and hand-crafted delicacy of Lydia's many layers are spacious and monumental, which turns Illuminate into a gorgeous record - an album that deserves attention to every track, every corner and every word I type in an attempt to justify its beauty.

RIYLDeath Cab for Cutie, Straylight Run, Eisley, Appleseed Cast, Copeland
Additional InfoFull Album Stream | AP.net Profile | Myspace
Track Listing01) This is Twice Now
02) A Fine Evening For a Rouge
03) I Woke Up Near the Sea
04) Hospital
05) Fate
06) Sleep Well
07) Stay Awake
08) All I See
09) One More Day
10) ... Ha, Yeah It Got Pretty Bad
11) Now the One You Once Loved is Leaving
This review is a user submitted review from Julia Conny. You can see all of Julia Conny's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 159
11:51 PM on 03/19/08
Registered User
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Blakebear's Avatar
I'm very excited to listen to this.

Yeah, I'm a little behind right now...

very nice review :)
12:13 AM on 03/20/08
The Protagonist of Loneliness
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billyboatkid's Avatar
1. Great review
2. Thanks for the cd!
3. I am in LOVE with this cd, I'm actually listening to this as I type this. haha

I like it even better than December.... and I've never really liked a follow up more than the original. There is not enough words to say how much I'm digging this album or this band.

great stuff.
12:22 AM on 03/20/08
glory glory
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IamTheINDUSTRY's Avatar
i agree so much with you on this review. i agree about the points where you just can't pin this record down. i feel the same way. it is so ambigous (maybe not the exact word i'm looking for but it will have to do). i feel as though i relate to it so much, but then again, i listen to what leighton is saying and second guess myself. this is a beautiful album. there's no question, but "there is so much here to consider" as you say. this album confuses me, so what i do with each listen is attempt to push that all away and just let it effect me.
12:24 AM on 03/20/08
poop butts
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weworemasks's Avatar
this album is just brilliant. it's my current aoty, although i highly doubt it will stay there. it also has a lot to do with the right place, right time. this record couldn't have hit harder for me personally. great review julia.
12:24 AM on 03/20/08
Adrian Villagomez
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Adrian Villagomez's Avatar
This review is going to blow up.
12:37 AM on 03/20/08
Blake Solomon
A tree you cannot cut.
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Blake Solomon's Avatar
first page!

now time to read the brilliance!

EDIT: OK, I wondered and truly was perplexed at what a review for this album would look like. I can only imagine how hard it was to start and finish. Kudos to you for handling it so well. I'll overlook the fact that you overlooked "Stay Awake," and part of me is happy you did, because I almost like that it's still a personal connection to me and me alone. Strange, but that's what this album does to me. You did, however, do an excellent job touching on so many tracks. I think I haven't given "Hospital" enough time. It is truly a beautiful track and a fantastic cameo for mr. Marsh. And while I think that Mindy does a fine job leading the ship on the finale, I can see how isn't completely out of the question to ask for her to just "let go" and belt it from time to time. Like on "Fate," she just kind of floats along, I wish she'd get in my face a bit more like the instruments.

What would I have scored this? It's hard to tell. And it really doesn't matter. But it would have been high, maybe even higher than 86% Does this mean I'm getting a Lydia tattoo that I'll only regret later? No. I do worry about this making it through the summer and spring. I fear this album might be delegated to a certain mood or temperature like my homey above stated. Only time will tell there, which is another reason I don't envy you for being forced to put a number score to this.

Thanks for doing such a great job with this.


01:03 AM on 03/20/08
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evilandgood's Avatar
this album is just brilliant. it's my current aoty, although i highly doubt it will stay there. it also has a lot to do with the right place, right time. this record couldn't have hit harder for me personally. great review julia.
you took the words right out of my mouth/fingers(?). This album it me like an arrow hit the apple above Tell's head. Right time, right place in my life.

and Julia, a gorgeous review to match a gorgeous album. awesome review, madam :D
01:26 AM on 03/20/08
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smoke4thecaper's Avatar
Awesome review (I know, I know ... I say that every time, but still) -- I like the format you tried out. Good work, Julia. I wasn't really a big fan of their first CD, but this one is sticking with me. Surprisingly enough, I was not affected by the hype; it isn't going to be my favorite album of 2008 but I definitely like what it offers.
01:31 AM on 03/20/08
All that wander are not lost
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irthesteve's Avatar
your 3. and 4. are reversed
01:32 AM on 03/20/08
All that wander are not lost
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irthesteve's Avatar
great review though, even if i can't really get into this album
06:34 AM on 03/20/08
Disprespect Your Surroundings!
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SandManTEND13's Avatar
I cant wait to hear it, i ordered it the other day
06:38 AM on 03/20/08
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youngmountain's Avatar
Good review, i like how its not too overly praise filled, this album has some great tracks but a few weaker ones aswell. I really love i woke up near the sea.
06:41 AM on 03/20/08
You'd be good for me
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fadedmemories's Avatar
solid review
07:03 AM on 03/20/08
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TWLOHAmichael's Avatar
this album is top of 08 so far...no question.

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