Author: Sarah Haghi
“How many of you have been following us for a long time?” asked Rachel Price, in a gorgeous orange floor-length dress that sways on stage with her. At least half of the audience, squished close in the dense Showbox Theatre in downtown Seattle, shot their arms towards the ceiling. With the youngest in the crowd being college age and the eldest being retirement age, it was clear that Lake Street Dive’s jazzy style has appeal that spans decades.
Mostly showcasing their new album, Free Yourself Up, Price mentioned that she was surprised to see that people already knew the lyrics and were singing along.
“You’ve done your homework,” she said.
The new album dropped on May 4thof this year, less than a month before they appeared in Seattle on May 30th.
There is no disputing that Lake Street Dive is an exceptionally fun band. It’s impossible not to dance to their tunes. Each musician in the band has clear artistic talent; the powerful voice of Price, the impeccable timing of drummer Mike Calabrese, and the passionate solos of bassist Bridget Kearney and guitarist Mike “McDuck”. Yet, even though there is clearly talent in these young Bostonians, their songwriting abilities are severely lacking. Their lyrics are far too ‘on-the-nose’ and transparent, especially in this most recent album. Their original songs are definitely the band’s largest hindrance, with lyrics like this from the song “Dude”: “If I was a dude rollin’ with your crew? Would you give me high-fives if I was a guy? And in the end, would you wanna be my friend, too?”
For another example, here is a snippet from the lyrics of one of their new songs, “Shame, Shame, Shame”: “Pain, pain, pain. Shame, shame, shame on you. I bet you think you’re a big man now. But you don’t know how to be a good man too.”
The music itself also falls short, with songs like “Free Yourself Up”, as it almost sounds like a knock-off of what it could have been. This style that they’ve settled into almost sounds like church music, feels pseudo-inspiring and preachy. They perform with so much zeal and happiness, it would be absolutely intoxicating if there was more substance to their songs.
Yet, some of their new songs were a total blast to listen to, like “Good Kisser”. I actually admire how Lake Street Dive tackles writing about heartbreak. They don’t write sad sob-story type romances or extremely angry and resentful phases of relationships. They write in this limbo phase that anyone who has experienced heartbreak is familiar with, when you haven’t moved on but are past anger. It’s a confusing and sorrowful type of healing that they often capture well with songs like “Bad Self Portraits”.
I got hooked on this band years ago for their cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”. It was from their EP Fun Machine in 2014 and was a beautiful, original approach to a classic. I think that if Lake Street Dive could drastically improve their songwriting, they could go from wedding band status to packing stadiums with their energy and raw talent.
SARAH HAGHI | KXSU (Incoming) Promotions Director