It’s always a bummer when a blossoming band diffuses just as they begin to show their full potential. Even worse is when the band diffuses just as they begin to show their full potential and you have just discovered them. Getting into a band is much more difficult when that band is no longer active, as the lasting value is somewhat less, with no hopes of catching them at a live show or looking forward to a new release. Fortunately, I came to love Lydia even after their breakup because their material was just too good to ignore. Illuminate is a masterpiece for sure, with delicate male/ female vocal arrangements that other artists wish they could rival. Assailants was a great swan song, but much too short and simply lacking an adequate amount of music to leave us with. A musician’s first move after the breakup of their most popular band is crucial, forcing them to prove that they can stand on their own and that they are indeed versatile. Did Leighton Antelman, former front man of Lydia, take the right first steps into his post-breakup life with his new project The Cinema? Well, that’s what you’re here to find out, isn’t it?
The best way to describe The Cinema’s debut album My Blood is Full of Airplanes is to compare it to a similar outing that another indie band took a few years back. Basically, Lydia is to The Cinema as Death Cab for Cutie is to The Postal Service. It is essentially Antelman’s sleepy yet soaring vocals, the same as they were on Assailants, mixed up with Matt Malpass’ techno beats and synthesizers. The difference between this and The Postal Service is that Airplanes is much more direct and catchy than The Postal Service’s dynamic and dreamy debut, Give Up. This plays to both its advantage and its disadvantage, as the album is much more accessible than Give Up, but is somewhat less impressive in the long run.
Not to worry though; there is still much worth checking out on The Cinema’s first album. “The Wolf” and “Kill It” have the potential to make a splash in the mainstream, and show the radio how pop music is done right. “Picasso” is insanely catchy and lyrically clever. “She’s On My Arm Now” is the most Lydia-like on the set, drawn out and hugely produced. The album as a whole does not stray too much from the typical Lydia formula, and this is somewhat disappointing. It’s not a huge complaint, as Lydia is a great band and has great songs, but it’s always refreshing to see an artist stretch out and take a few more lets-jump-out-of-an-airplane-like risks, even if they don’t always work. Also, the techno beats can become a bit overwhelming and give the impression that there is too much going on. With that said, the title track ranks among Antelman’s best songs with one of his best vocal performances and some of his most imaginative lyrics:
“Get it right this time
I’m throwing lassos at the sky
Catching moments as big as my eyes…..
I’m throwing islands at your eyes
Intoxicating like we’re on a gold mine.”
Is it mind-bending or life-changing or album of the year? Probably not. Is it good and worth checking out? Yes, absolutely, especially if you are a fan of Lydia. But don’t expect the next Postal Service or anything of that sort. Expect a catchy, melodically sound album that will surely produce a few of your favorite tracks this year. And, in case you were wondering, look forward to the new album by the newly reunited Lydia next month.