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Album Review: Lemolo – Red Right Return

It’s a rare individual who can say their formative years were not fraught with struggle. It truly is a battle; there’s a reason it is called growing pains. That is what makes Lemolo’s (nom de plume of Meagan Grandall) musical journey from her debut album The Kaleidoscope to her recently released Red Right Return so much more astonishing. Not only does she dodge the cliche awkward stumbles of a second album, it showcases an enriched body of sound.

The album begins with the familiar minimalist song structure she laid out on her debut. One of the marvels of Meagan’s music is that the bones of each song follow a simple formula: a rippling, minimalist melody over mesmerizing vocals and yet she finds a way to vary this blueprint into so many unique shades. Just as the imagery of track 2’s title ‘White Flag’ is evocative of surrender, you are left with little choice but to give in to her ethereal vocals.

If the first couple songs serve as a reintroduction her now trademark sound, the next two tracks, ‘Runner’ and ‘Alglow,’ is where the album truly begins to blossom. The former ebbs a flows with rich dimension while the latter carries a driving undertone and marks a new sonic depth absent from her previous work. Whereas her last album’s haunting sensibility emanated like a chill from a deserted mansion’s hallway, this album’s heart radiates a grounded, more organic cadence.

Red Right Return

The lyrics also step up to match the spirited music at each stride. Meagan makes it very clear that she is taking the offense with lines like “seeing where I want to be. I don’t know what’s stopping me” (‘Fuel’) and “All my running, you were walking” (‘Runner’). Her floating falsetto helps to drive the emotional tension to soaring heights.

While the propulsive rhythms and poignant lyrics add a welcome zest, it never feels overbearing. She strikes just the right balance and recognizes that she doesn’t need bombast to rattle your bones — subtlety can still be just as strong. There is no point on the record that you feel overwhelmed and yet the emotional weight is ever present. There is always enough space left to breathe and let the song sink in slowly.

Grandall has been steadily and tenaciously been pursuing music from her Northwest base of Seattle since 2009. During this time she’s been able to cultivate a sound that is authentically hers but still reminiscent of other artists. Her diverse vocal range calls to mind Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches while the front-and-center vocals put in mind a personal favorite of mine: Majical Cloudz. Another easy comparison is Sleeping at Last who’s gained critical acclaim for his work on soundtracks and many a-television spots which is a niche I can easily see Lemolo carving out for themselves.

What endears me personally to the music of Lemolo is that it’s delicate by choice; not out of necessity. It shows that music can be fragile while not brittle or void of strength. A great example is the elegant ‘Casting Call’ where Meagan’s vocals dance up and down the scale but is bolstered by a persistent drum and piano that helps carry the performance right to the last note. Everything lines up perfectly on Red Right Return for Lemolo and you can tell that any pains taken to forge this record were well worth it.

You can purchase the record digitally or on CD at their Bandcamp. Vinyl fans keep an eye out for a special double disc vinyl to be released in early 2016!