Lakes – ‘Start Again’ album review

Lakes’ debut album ‘The Constance LP’ was inspired after American Football’s 2016 ‘LP2’ inspired drummer/guitarist Matt Shaw to start writing music again. Within the space of month, he had the songs that made up 2018’s ‘The Tahoe EP’ and 2019’s ‘The Geneva EP’ and the basis of the full-length. Now – after various lockdowns disrupted the recording process – the Watford-based six-piece are back with Neil Strauch-produced new album ‘Start Again’ – a collection of songs that explore themes including mental health, addiction, break-ups and toxicity: ‘This batch of songs has been a vehicle for healing for all six of us in some way, so there are a lot of different but raw themes throughout the record. Even though we’re currently all isolated from each other, the one person you can’t escape is yourself.’

The almost ambient, twinkly stylings of ‘Blind’ open the record with a slow build and plenty of vocal harmonies before ‘No Excuses’ takes it into more of an experimental TTNG direction. This song fans the band talking about pulling the plug as they try to make sense of someone’s behaviour – ‘I’m only human. I don’t know what you’ve been doing’ – and features a thrilling bass-led breakdown. Things get darker with ‘Matches’ – a prog-tinged piece with melody and melancholy at its heart: ‘If you can plan with the matches, then you can clean up the ashes. ‘Mirrors’ also has this emotional heft as Lakes talk about ‘moving on, moving out’ and ponder how things can keep you up at night – even though you’ve heard it all thousands of times before…

‘Peace’ has a stream of advice about looking out for yourself and your mental health, delivered against a wall of guitar hooks that fall somewhere between Agent Fresco and The Appleseed Cast, while the title track has a toe-tapping fractured-pop sound that finds the band finding a sense of belonging: ‘I’m being as honest as I can, because it makes me feel like I can start again’. ‘Talk’ has a casiotone-style opening and is also full of helpful suggestions to people who are struggling – ‘Let’s talk about it… Talk!’; ‘We have so much to work through. Where do we begin?’ – before ‘Get Better’ reminded us of Mew with its jangly, shoegaze-tinged riffs and personal lyrics: ‘When words feel the worst, you can take my last breath. You’ll be heard’. The penultimate ‘Retrograde’ offers an account of a painful break-up that still ends with wanting someone back (‘Confused and I’m broken because we haven’t talked for days’; ‘If you were honest, would you say what you said?’) before ‘Animals’ finishes the album in suitably potent mathy style.

From experimental leanings to timeless melodies inspired by ’80s legends, ‘Start’ Again’ is an album you’ll want to play over and over again.

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