April 6, 2015

Review: Greg Lyon | Landlocked To The East

Boston scene veteran Greg Lyon has been getting it done since the late '90s, fronting acts including Pending Disappointment and playing sideman to local legend Eldridge Rodriguez and, more recently, the mighty The Beatings. As a solo artist in recent years, Mr. Lyon has (somewhat ironically) revealed more and more of himself the further he recedes into the shadows of the scene. Metropolis-straddling label Midriff Records whisked out Lyon's stirring solo debut Nowhere Near Poughkeepsie in late 2010, and the set brightly illuminated the depth and breadth of Lyon's songwriting via skeletal balladry, folksy musings and post-punky strummers. But live shows were few and far between, and after contributing a sparkling, blissed-out cover of "Paralyzed" (and smashing cover art) to Clicky Clicky's 2012 Ride tribute comp NOFUCKINGWHERE, Mr. Lyon vanished from the public eye... err... ear.

Now comes a vibrant and long-awaited sophomore set, some two years in the making, wherein Lyon directed his attention to a backlog of what turns out to be very impressive material. The new collection Landlocked To The East presents a huge step forward for Lyon in terms of arrangement and production. You'll note we are not saying he proves himself here to be an even better songwriter. This, of course, is almost certainly empirically true, but the fact is that Nowhere Near Poughkeepsie was filled with great songs, and wrongfully slept-on by many. If anything, Landlocked To The East evidences Lyon's greater confidence in his own songwriting chops, or -- at the very least -- that taking two years to make a record very much agrees with him. Whatever the truth may be, on the new set Lyon presents lusher sounds and increasingly nuanced arrangements, which together conspire to make Landlocked To The East a very rewarding listen. The highlight of the set is the opener "Western Ave Drug Mule," an almost-seven-minute number whose final, slowly spinning five minutes sound like one long chorus. A kick and snare drum finally arrive at the close of the fourth minute, ushering in a firm cadence over which layers of vocals pile up, merging with cycling harmonics and faux strings to form a dizzying mesh that falls away abruptly to reveal the acoustic strums underpinning the composition at the close of the song.

The excellent, uptempo rocker "Vast Departures" is also notable for its rich layers: maracas put a finer point on the driving rhythm after the first chorus; the second chorus swells with subtle synths; and a final verse briefly permits spectral voices to cross the stereo field unfettered. All these little layers, all the nuance, echoes the shifting and detailed beauty of the early Mercury Rev catalog, although Mr. Lyon's songwriting remains rooted in a folksy realism (exemplified here, perhaps, by the three-quarter-timed, harmonica- and piano-appointed strummer "If I Could Sing") that leaves no room for that act's unbridled psychedelia. But even Lyon's more folk-leaning material -- such as "Sorry Virginia" -- touts an aural fullness that is the hallmark of this impressively varied collection. Close seconds for best tune on Landlocked To The East are the smoothed-out, poignant ballad "Shiny New Caps" (a perfect candidate for the b-side to "Western Ave Drug Mule," were a single from the collection ever be pressed) and the yet-more-subdued, piano-led and impressionistic number "I Have Bottomed Out."

We're very pleased to be able to premiere two of the aforementioned tracks, namely "Western Ave Drug Mule" and "I Have Bottomed Out," both of which you can stream via the Soundcloud embed below. The entirety of Landlocked To The East will be available to stream via the Midriff Records blog here from tomorrow, and we recommend you click that link and spend some time with the record once the Brothers Keiber, the proprietors of Midriff, get their act together and get the stream active tomorrow. Midriff is not fond of doing pre-orders, so sit patiently on your hands and wait until next Tuesday, when you will be able to purchase Landlocked To The East from Midriff as a digital download via the label's digital storefront right here.

Greg Lyon: Bandcamp | Faceblah

Prior Coverage:
Clicky Clicky Music Presents... N O F U C K I N G W H E R E : 11 Boston Bands Perform Ride's Classic 1990 Album
Greg Lyon with Soccer Mom | PA's Lounge, Somerville | 4 December
Be Prepared: Greg Lyon | Nowhere Near Poughkeepsie | 4 Dec.

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