We have one rule here at Maine Music News – I only review shows and albums that I like. After about three minutes listening to LullWater’s soon-to-be-released self-entitled debut, the review was already taking shape in my mind. I can sum it up in two F-words – Finally & Fantastic.
LullWater originates from the roots of Athens, Georgia and channels the iconic Seattle, Washington sound. What does that mean? Besides I’m in heaven? It means the great Georgia rock sound I love in bands like early REM and Drivin’ & Cryin’ settle in with the grind and pathos that grunge perfected. This isn’t music you just listen to, this is music that you crawl into.
Some bands can create a distinct sound, something brand new and all their own out of familiar elements. LullWater is doing just that. Ever seen a snapshot of something you love, like your favorite beach, on someone else’s refrigerator? Suddenly you see something so personal and comfortable from a new point of view. That’s how I feel here. LullWater is taking me back to the heyday of alternative rock and roll without feeling tired or redundant. Instead, it feels like I just found undiscovered vintage vinyl.
John Strickland’s vocals are strong and pleasant with just a bit of grit. He has the ability to push up the power, but he’s smart about it – sort of like Eddie Veder took lessons from Gordon Lightfoot. The guitar work is smart as well. John handles rhythm guitar, Brett Strickland is on lead, and Ray Beatty is on bass. Pulling distortion and other effects into the mix, songs are layered and surprising without ever becoming awkward and can swing from a sound that is overflowing and edgy to a lighter, airy mood – all the while maintaining the signature LullWater sound. Joe Wilson adds pounding, jabbing, energetic drum work that surges and retreats. This is great music, folks. I may need another F-word to clarify, but I’ll keep it for later.
Track by Track
#1 ~ “Oddline” rips open this release with crash and smash and rhythm. The energy here reaches deep inside and doesn’t let go. Strickland’s vocals stretch and set the bar high.
#2 ~ “New Design” pulls back on the throttle but opens up the depth available from this band. Here we start to get a feel for their ability to add interest to composition and variety.
#3 ~ With a bit of classic 70’s hollow effect, “Blind” is my first favorite. Strickland’s voice is wide, softening, and the rhythm is throbbing. This feels like full on regret and yearning. This was released as a single.
#4 ~ “The Dream” is a little spunkier and fun. The guitar riffs slip over into that glorious jangle, and just try to stop yourself from being sucked into the beat.
#5 ~ “Albatross” digs in deep with growling vocals, edgy drum work, and saturated guitar. This song feels like a road trip to kick someone’s ass.
#6 ~ Even meatier and darker, “Got a Life” speaks of taking control, and is slower, stalking. “Have you ever seen the sun rise at the same time you fall asleep? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived in a world where the wolves never preyed upon the sheep? Force fed all your empty sunshine, didn’t know you had already come and gone…” These boys aren’t fooling around. Strickland’s voice is like a long dirt road – sweet and gritty. My second favorite.
#7 ~ “Tug of War” was released as a single as well. It builds and gathers you into the sound before opening up and letting the rock and roll loose. This is where I started to notice the guitar effects becoming even more raw. I like that.
# 8 ~ Reaching way back to the Georgia sound of early REM, “Curiosity” is wonderful.
# 9 ~ “A Plane” shifts the tone of LullWater a bit and declares that the band can do more than updated grunge. The composition stops and starts, building and surging, and you feel every note from the guitars.
#10 ~ Sort of a sweet 60’s groove, “Walk on By” soars with an early classic guitar and is open, airy, and wavering. Strickland’s vocals are lonesome and reaching. Great shift of direction here with all the energy intact.
#11 ~ “Home” continues the lighter mood. Vocals are much different here, softer, and the tune sparks a pleasant emotion, reminiscent without sugary sentimentality.
#12 ~ “Waste Yourself” hits it hard again, and brings back the grind heard earlier in the album. Strickland’s vocals are buried until he pushes out the angst and wail available in his range. The drum work here is nice and dark, moody.
#13 ~ “Hello” wraps up the listed tracks with a dreamy, echoing song. The listener could walk through this song and never touch the edges. The days of vinyl on a turntable in a dark room are crying for this song.
#13.5 ~ Hidden track probably called something like So Lonesome is a sweet acoustic piece buried behind the white noise of “Hello.”
LullWater recorded this album on tape at London Bridge Studio of Pearl Jam and Sound Garden fame. Between the band’s talent and skill, and the sound that only tape can produce, we have a new release that feels like everything we love wrapped up but from a new vision. Crawl in and listen up, folks. Here’s my last F-Word – This is Fabulous.