Lydia has done a rather strange thing. After half of the band departed last year in order to form other projects (Gates and States), remaining members Leighton Antelman and Craig Taylor decided that it would be best to lay the band to rest and move on with their lives. And, after a farewell tour and a final EP, it did indeed seem as if Lydia was done and over with. Antelman was known to be working with producer Matt Malpass on a new project (this work would eventually turn into The Cinema‘s recent release, My Blood Is Full of Airplanes) and everything was as it normally is after a band breakup- all of the former members were doing their own thing, their times together merely a remnant of the past. It was right when the dust was beginning to settle and the sting of this loss began to wear off that Antelman and Taylor made a double take and announced work on a brand new Lydia album.
Well, give yourself a slap and open your eyes, because this isn’t a dream. Lydia, on their new album Paint It Golden, hold nothing back. Every ounce of sincere lyricism, of layered and creative musicianship, and sheer beauty that the duo could possibly find within themselves is laid out for all of the world to see in this stunningly gorgeous set of ten songs. The light, wintery piano lines, the soft, perfectly executed “ohh’s” in the background of every song, the slight electronic effects and the always imaginative lyricism are evolved and better than ever. Be prepared for an album that is incredibly dense and meaningful, dark and uplifting: the perfect soundtrack to any black night, chilly morning or anything in between.
Antelman and Taylor may have lost the rest of their band, but their improvement in skill since their last full length has completely made up for any shortage of members. Even without the enviable vocal harmonies with former member Mindy White that were prevalent on Illuminate, the album succeeds. That’s not to say that Lydia has forgotten their past. From the get go, the album reflects not only a remembrance of what the band used to be, but also a maturation from it. First track “Hailey” alludes to some lyrics from their first full length, This December; it’s One More and I’m Free, with verses that are laced with classic Lydia piano and a chorus that is poppier and more influenced by electronics. The two halves of the song seem to mirror the band’s past as well as their future. “Ghosts” is possibly the best song that the band has ever produced, building up gradually into an explosive bridge before falling right back down into the somberness of its beginning. The lyrics are some of the best of the album, pondering the role of death in one’s life and what it means to have an inevitable end:
“When I’m dead and I’m gone
Just burn me up to the sun
I’ve got a couple more years here
I want nothing but you, dear
When I stare at the ceiling
Five o’clock in the morning
I’ve got one thing that’s on my mind
I’ve got so much to do before I die
Yeah, if I survive.”
The uplifting “Birds” and “Dragging Your Feet In the Mud” are literally hope in song form, the aching, light tweet of Antelman as smooth and graceful as ever and the music layered and deeply affecting- flying into the sky and back down again over and over, each upward crawl and sudden plummet just as enthralling as the last.
I could go through every song on Paint It Golden and tell you why it should be your favorite, but I hardly find that to be necessary. The album is an accomplishment, it really is. Only a year ago did we have the band’s “final” EP in our hands; who could have guessed that today we’d have a completely new collection of songs by the very same band in our hands? And who could have guessed that that collection of new songs would possibly be the best collection of songs that the band had ever released? I didn’t, and that’s part of what makes this album so great; no one expected it.