Los Angeles band Lady Low call their music “romance rock”, and while the words romance and rock conjure a variety of images depending on the individual, it’s not at all an inapt self-appointed genre, especially since the group’s sound and style is often hard to pin down. Imagine The Magnetic Fields, accompanied by a live string section, covering Coldplay’s “Yellow” with Phil Spector producing and you’ll start to have an idea of where Lady Low is coming from.
On their new album, And They Say Romance Is Dead, Jimmy Sweet (vocals & guitar), Eden Lee (vocals & drums), Shanel Chavers (vocals & synth), Kaitlin Wolfberg (violin), Corinne Olsen (violin), and Mia Siler (viola) deliver ten emotional songs that range in style from acapella lullabies, to rich, cinematic ballads. Jimmy’s smooth yet direct baritone paired with Lee and Chavers’ firm but feminine vocals creates an ideal tonal feeling that simultaneously conveys sadness and unrequited longing with a touch of optimism. It’s this emotional resonance that when combined with lyrics about love, death, regrets, and loneliness makes for an affecting collection of songs that create a sense of wistful heartache without leaving the listener feeling cold and alienated.
Lady Low are at their best when bringing light to the darkness, and the majority of songs here excel in doing just that. The driving “All Time Low” utilizes a proud trumpet alongside a pounding march to illuminate the track’s otherwise sorrowful theme. The gorgeous piano ballad “You Say You Don’t Love Me” features just Lee and Chavers on vocals. Halfway in, hopeful-sounding strings enter, the piano shifts into a confident octave, and the song is lifted to remarkable heights, creating the record’s strongest moment.
At times the lyrics are overly simplistic as in the album’s last track, a dirge reminiscent of slowcore band Low called “The Pills”, which has Jimmy and the ladies singing, “Time is standing still, the winter gives you chills.” In addition, the song’s minor chord turns and downcast harmonizing devoid of any optimism make it an odd choice to end with. Although just over two minutes in length, the penultimate track, a heroic-sounding victory lap dedicated “To the hearts I destroyed” called “Death & Love & Beauty & Sound” would have been a more fitting conclusion to this collection.
The aforementioned complaints aside, Lady Low have delivered an overall very strong record that manages to thoroughly demonstrate the full range of their excellent compositional and performance skills. And They Say Romance Is Dead is a cohesive set of songs that effectively demonstrates Lady Low’s romance rock.