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Lavender Diamond - Imagine Our Love

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Artist: Lavender Diamond

Album: Imagine Our Love

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 31, 2007

Becky Stark! She’s wacky! She’s easily distracted during interviews! Lavender Diamond is a persona she made up for herself, a sort of new-agey village idiot who proselytizes love and togetherness! It’s also the name of a band, with Stark and some other people in it! The new album sounds like Vashti Bunyan! It’s new folk! Salt-of-the-earth stuff!

Some bands are easy to loathe. A lot of people will loathe Lavender Diamond. They’ll have their reasons. There’s the self-consciously holistic marketing scheme, run down at length in the cutely pseudo-profound liner notes. Some people will hate them for that alone. Some will find fault with the incongruity between Lavender Diamond’s overwrought self-presentation and its starkly rudimentary music. Beneath their clean, complex instrumentation, most of the songs on Imagine Our Love are slight, slight compositions. Among the ones that rise above repetitive chants, most are blatantly indebted to ’60s pop-folk and Opry ballads, with the yearning and irony replaced by a glazed, laconic optimism befitting a smug 6-year-old. The humor is more weird than clever (“I thought my mother was the Lord / But how can that be / When the Lord is a man?”) There isn’t much of the nature imagery that makes those Bunyan and Catherine Howe reissues palatable to weary urbanites. There are, though, a lot of bargain-basement hippie platitudes. There will probably be a backlash.

And yet, for all that’s cloying about Lavender Diamond, Stark can sing. Goddamn, can she fucking sing. She paces herself beautifully – on the verses, she’s dreamy and dissociated; on the choruses, she nails high notes that could thaw out the tundra. She can deliver the most stupid, Banhardtian lyric (“I’ll never sweep the alley / Though the alley might be clean / And I’ll never be for countries / Though I one day might be mean”) with cynicism-busting possession. And the musicians seem to realize that “sloppy” is not their province, or to have never considered sucking as an option. Imagine Our Love may not be eccentric enough for its hype scheme (it’s just a bit daffy here and there), but it is beautifully constructed, built to outlast the age.

Through Stark’s delivery, even the happy songs can sound wonderfully sad, vulnerable to a broad scope of emotion ignored in their lyrics. But the out-and-out weepers are easy highlights. The sublime sway of “My Shadow Is a Monday” enhances the lyric’s lonesome workaday angst, and the crushing “I’ll Never Lie Again” sounds like a child’s first encounter with genuine regret.

Sometimes, to get at the center of things, you have to dumb it down. Lavender Diamond dumbs it down and then hoists it to the sky. Like a lot of good pop music.

By Emerson Dameron

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