Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

It’s been a long time coming, but this week it’s finally with us. It’s almost a year since Dev Hynes flew to Omaha to record his debut album as Lightspeed Champion, produced by Saddle Creek and Bright Eyes mainstay Mike Mogis. Although it’s been in the can waiting for release all that time, we were given a couple of trailers in the second half of last year in the form of a two limited edition 10 inch singles, which gave an indication of what we might expect. The prospect was a bit mixed.

First single Galaxy of the Lost was a glorious country-pop gem that was easily one of my singles of last year. Follow-up Midnight Surprise was a bit of a sprawling mess that didn’t seem to go anywhere over the nine minutes of its duration. The other Lightspeed tracks circulating, both as b-sides and on the internet also pointed to a mixed picture, but with the probability weighed slightly in favour of ‘good’. Then, first impressions on seeing the album cover in the shop weren’t so good – titles like Let the Bitches Die, and Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk suggested something a bit juvenile and annoying.

But now after a few days of having Falling off the Lavender Bridge in my possession, I’m happy to say that the results are much better than I’d expected. There are only a couple of duffers here, and most of the rest are really rather good - particularly the sparking new single Tell Me What it's Worth. Mind you, how much of this is down to Dev’s songwriting and how much to the seasoned guiding hand of Mike Mogis is probably up for debate. Although it’s something that I’d almost never say as a positive thing, I think that …Lavender Bridge is a bit of a triumph of production. The lush county-pop stylings, full of swishy strings, the languid sweep of the lap steel and (crucially) the sweet backing vocals of Emmy the Great on almost every track all contribute to it sounding fully formed and not unlike a junior version of Bright Eyes. But whether or not all this is Dev’s or Mike’s influence probably isn’t that important (though the fact that Dev’s favourite band is The Strokes can clearly be heard on I Could Have Done This Myself) because what we have is a satisfying and well-rounded debut album, which despite occasionally grating lyrics fully justifies the investment Domino have put into developing Dev as a solo artist. And perhaps surprisingly, it’s one that bears up to repeated listening, sounding even better after a few spins. I’m even warming to Midnight Surprise now. Good times…

Download: Lightspeed Champion – Galaxy of the Lost
Download: Lightspeed Champion – I Could Have Done This Myself

I’d advise you to buy the album from Rough Trade, because you’ll get a bonus CD of cover versions (Dev loves covers, as can be evidenced from a lot of sources, including here). There are versions of tracks by Good Shoes and Patrick Wolf which are as uninteresting as the originals. Much better are his takes on Xanadu and a song from the musical Hair.

Download: Lightspeed Champion – Xanadu

Dev is about to embark on a massive tour – all details on the myspace. On the strength of this album I might even be tempted to go and see him. Supported by Semifinalists too. Double good.


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