Album: LAKE – Let's Build a Roof

by Chris Williams
Label: K Records
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Hippies. Olympia Washington is full of them, and at least seven ended up in the psychedelic pop outfit LAKE. The band has had a long history playing music together, backing up national acts such as Bonnie “Prince” Billie and playing as a Fleetwood Mac cover band. Now they’re signed to the legendary West Coast label K Records, whose website says, “Listening to LAKE is like pouring sugar in your ears.” I tend to agree. The music is beautiful, the vocal harmonies are great, but the saccharine lyrics are empty calories to dress up the composition. Oh, college town rock, replete with metaphors about nothing, discussing the boundaries of reality, arriving at worthless insights.
The album Let’s Build a Roof would have made an amazing EP. I’m pretty sure the band knew this, because they conveniently put all of the great songs at the top of the track-list. The rest just kind of drones on in 4/4 Fleetwood Mac meets Tilly and the Wall mode. Not that that’s terrible in moderation. Track 7, the soft rock groove ‘Loose Wind,’ sounds kinda vintage, it’s got a little jangle to it and tickles my affinity for Rhodes piano and vocal harmonies. Its great driving music; great composition, swimming in reverb, with simple drums, a shrewd use of cymbals and guitar, plenty of room for dynamic shifts, novel instruments fading in and out of the ambiance, and the bass guitar holding it all down with judicious, engaging pick work.
By far the most interesting track on the album is ‘Gravel,’ which clearly requires a seven-member band. The beat is cobbled together from marimba, quick guitar arpeggios, oohs, kick drum and woodblock. Singer Ashley Eriksson rambles metaphorically about responsibility. For the second verse, the horns enter and some sound clear, some sound old and far away. They burst out rhythmic notes, then hold chords together through a transition before entering a subdued marching band style solo. The composition is like a rich electronic track, but the horns are real, and Karl Blau’s production is so smooth and subdued.
The next song, ‘Madagascar,’ which the band is pushing as their single, showcases LAKE’s diverse abilities as a backup band and Eli Moore’s whispery falsetto. Like Sade or Feist with a male vocalist, it’s a funky tune with the subdued drums, Rhodes piano, tight bass and intermittent very rich background instrumentation. Great choice for a single, I would have liked a more of this style on the rest of the album.