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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.

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Alex Lahey - The Best of Luck Club Music Album Reviews

The Australian pop-punk musician’s second album is a welcome and wide-open look at mid-twenties inertia and queer romance.

When Alex Lahey released a charming debut album, I Love You Like a Brother, in October 2017, gay marriage wasn’t yet legal in her home country of Australia. Its follow-up, The Best of Luck Club, is a welcome and wide-open look into the artist’s personal life, packed with songs about mid-twenties inertia and queer romance that flow as naturally as an embellished story from the boozed-up patron on the next bar stool. She might start the night as a stranger, but by closing time, she’s got your number and you’re calling her “bud.”


Flashes of this same chumminess shone throughout her debut, but Lahey avoids redundancies by tinkering with her sound. Working with pop-savvy co-producer Catherine Marks, she’s sanded down some of the debut’s rough edges, casting a Tegan and Sara glow on sincere love songs and refined slacker-rock anthems. On “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself,” Lahey brings in a blaring saxophone solo against a cautiously encouraging message to a friend who’s grabbed the bull by the horns and seems at risk of being thrown off. The spiteful riffs and quick chord progression of “Misery Guts” recall Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” and the whimsical piano melody of “Isabella” underlines a cheeky ode to what sounds like a vibrator.

When Lahey sang, “We can’t marry even if we want to” on I Love You Like a Brother ballad “There’s No Money,” it was a brief, resigned personal acknowledgment tucked into an album whose descriptions of life and love were otherwise largely non-confrontational. Australia has since equalized marriage, and coincidentally or not, The Best of Luck Club joins the likes of Troye Sivan in celebrating details of specifically queer romance. “You deserve to know the way I feel/When I watch you use your thighs to turn the steering wheel,” Lahey sings on the doting “Black RMs,” a line that will feel uniquely familiar to any girl who’s road-tripped with a crush. It wasn’t that long ago that alt-rock’s most visible queer women were regularly tagged as being sad, serious, emotional—not that they didn’t have reason to be. A generation on, Lahey’s breezy love songs are brightened by everyday descriptions of a life lived openly.

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Outright statement, as opposed to suggestion, has always been at the heart of Lahey’s songwriting. The best of The Best of Luck Club marks a new level of maturity, compressing a multitude of emotions within a single song. “Misery Guts” reacts to a painful breakup with equal parts vulnerability and volatility: “I need a minute to relax, so pretty please get off my back, I’m breathing with my hands on my knees!” The stunning “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore” explores the fragility and frivolity of the early-to-mid-twenties transition, with its minefield of financial anxieties and steadily worsening hangovers. Lahey soaks the verses and chorus in raucous, power-pop riffs, downshifting at the bridge to sing in a clear-as-glass voice: “I’ve lost track, it’s caught me by surprise/Can I go back and not be left behind?” Layers of self-harmonies alternate lyrics—“Everything was better with no jobs or obligations”—and collaborator Lachlan McGeehan takes a heavy hand to the cymbals until the whole thing crashes together like drunk twenty-somethings on a Twister mat.

Lahey may be stuck in the thick of it now, but her ability to see as though she’s already beyond, to address life’s essential contradictions with thoughtfulness and humor, makes her an insightful storyteller. Like a message from a wise friend, The Best of Luck Club is worth revisiting whenever you’re in need of a little perspective.


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