Review: Laveda – ‘What Happens After’
Written by Mark Anderson on July 26, 2020
While we recognize this album review celebrates a release from over a month ago, we publish anyway, as it fits squarely into consideration for Best Albums of 2020, thus deserving deeper examination. – Ed.
Nominees for my album of the year just keep piling up. Adding to the list this week are New York-based duo Laveda with their sparkling debut album, What Happens After. I discovered this band on the recent DKFM DreamGaze III event where I was bowled over by their vocal interplay and harmonies. Little was I to know the treat I had in store when their album hit my inbox.
The album opens on some beautifully-strummed acoustic chords not unlike early Bon Iver. However, that is only a momentary distraction as we launch into the noise driven, perfect storm of “Ghost”. This song strikes the perfect balance between that wall of sound we all like and the hooks and beats and ups and downs of a perfect pop song.
“Better Now” arrives on the dying wash of the final waves from “Ghost”. This is a different animal altogether. A driving drum machine carries angelic vocals from Ali Genevich countered by Jake Brooks heavily effected vocals in the chorus. The guitars sound amazing on this track switching from glossy chiming parts to the shimmering fuzz of the outro.
The experimental sound collage of “CND” is next. An eerie voice over talking of America’s obsession with nuclear war plays against a backdrop of sweeping synths and punchy guitars. An urgent drum beat kicks in half way through bringing things up a further notch. This is the sound of a band having fun.
As far as killer intros go, “Rager” has that one owned. When I eventually get to see them live this will be the track that gets crowd moving. Jake and Ali sing with each other throughout adding to the energy and power behind this song. It’s the guitars here that rage, as the song speaks of mankind heading to its self-made destruction. “Now it’s on fire. There’s nowhere left to wander. Soon everyone dies, we’ll never find another”. This is a powerful song which cleverly juxtaposes a frenetic and upbeat track to some really quite bleak lyrics.
“L” was the first recorded track I heard from the band. Straight off I was mesmerised by the production values and the killer chorus on show here. This song has an unmistakable Wolf Alice vibe about it, which is high praise indeed. The band make great use of dynamics to build the song towards that killer of a chorus. Jake and Ali take turns on the verses to great effect. This track will be getting a lot of radio play.
Catchy choruses aren’t in short supply thankfully. On “Dream.Sleep” we are treated to a piece of songwriting genius. This song is built from three very distinct sections, all of which build towards a jubilatory instrumental break which could have come from that favourite 80’s high school coming of age movie you love. Ali is on fire here, delivering a vocal performance which deserves recognition. Somebody give her an award please! The soaring chorus will have you on your feet and dancing, kissing all your worries goodbye.
“If Only (You Said No)” steps down the pace considerably without it stepping out of sync with the overall vibe of the album. A strummed acoustic intro leads a ballad awash with stunning synths and samples. For me this stripped back song perfectly showcases what made me fall for this band in the first place. The vocals, perfectly matched and stunning harmonising. It’s a hint of what’s to come later on, more on that later.
We are back in super bright, technicolour pop territory next with “Child”. A glorious, widescreen stormer showcasing Jake’s tremendous voice. Listening to this song feels like driving at breakneck speed with the top down. Utterly exhilarating.
That leads us to my album highlight, the reason I had to explore this album, “Blue Beach”. Where do I start with this quite breathtaking track? I mentioned earlier about how perfectly matched Jake and Ali’s voices are and it’s here, on this song, we see what they are truly capable of. We begin softy with tinkling wind chimes and sounds of the waves on the beach. Then the song envelops us. It’s immediate. Once you have heard that intro you know this is going to be special. Jake leads us slowly to the chorus where Ali steps in and everything comes into sharp focus. The harmonies along with the ever-developing backing track lead us ever on through this song. When the strings come in on the final chorus there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
Final track “color” uses the strings from “Blue Beach” and develops the theme with some spoken word lyrics from Ali. A fitting bookend to this record easing us out.
I really connected with this album. You can tell from the lyrical content, from the detailed arrangements of these amazing songs, that Laveda care. That is what felt from the first listen. That is what I still feel now after umpteen play-throughs. If you care, maybe you should give Laveda a listen too.
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