- By Finn Wagstaff -
In an era where musicians are constantly defined by one specific sound, Lake Street Dive remains musically ambiguous. On the Boston band's fourth studio album, Free Yourself Up, the band melds rock, jazz, R&B, and even country influences. This album also acts as an effort to bring the band into the current political climate.
On the opening track, "Baby Don't Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts," singer Rachael Price starts off by singing directly to someone. She pleads with them to stay with her. However, the second verse flips the listeners' ideas about the song. It turns from a funky near-ballad about not wanting to be alone, to the newfound anxiety many find themselves in the current political atmosphere. While the rest of the song maintains the same upbeat guitar and synths, it is clear that Lake Street Dive is willing to explore politics without sacrificing their unique sound. The rest of the album fails to be as political as this track, save a couple lines on the track "Dude" ("we used to kick it like Joe and Obama.")
This album can be described as expected.
At this point in their career, Lake Street Dive knows what works for them as a band and what doesn't. There isn't a whole lot of experimentation at play. Although, what they have come up with is a lot of fun. The tracks are enjoyable, from the singalong vibe of "Good Kisser" to the gospel-influenced "You Are Free," from which the album gets its name. There are ballads like "I Can Change" and "Hang On." Even from the names, these sound like ballads that vaguely hint at past heartbreak. And, heartbreak still to come.
This album doesn't have a clear statement as an album in part because every track sounds like it could be the thesis of Free Yourself Up. Most of the album is about a nondescript person. And, who that person is and what they did is unclear. However, on this album, the power in the music isn't derived as much from the lyrics as it is from Price's voice and the rest of the band's musical prowess.
When I was listening to this album for the first time,
I could very clearly understand what this album reminded me of. It reminds me of old block parties and town festivals and the bands that would play. I was never paying too close attention to the lyrics, but moreso the vibe of the band. This is the case with Free Yourself Up. Listening to this album makes you want to invite friends over and celebrate. It isn't an album that requires deep analysis of the tracks but provides a warm, inviting atmosphere. Ultimately, this carefree nature is the biggest strength of Free Yourself Up. Lake Street Dive has created an album that celebrates unity and encourages people to come together. We are all equal (and happy) under Lake Street Dive.