Once you spend any time delving into Lycia Luce’s life, you realize she was predestined to make music. However, you begin to wonder if her musical outpourings would be different if she hadn’t been raised in a strict musical home, where her mother expected her daughter to learn violin, which she did, later followed by taking a master’s in viola at UCLA.
One wonders how she escaped a career as a classical musician or if, from another perspective, she actually did because her latest album, Dark River, thrums with echoes of classical textures and luminous strings. Of course, alt-rock elements, Americana, folk, jazz, and pop defy the ‘classical designation,’ making the album something entirely different.
Dark River follows Lydia’s 2018 debut album, Azalea, reflecting a definite folk/Americana aura, while Dark River is darker and cathartic, more potently flavoured by alternative tangs. Luce went through a debilitating relationship between the two albums, followed by travelling to the Pacific Northwest, hiking Mount Saint Helen, and camping in Colorado. As she probed her loneliness and sadness, an emotional purging occurred.
Encompassing 11-tracks, the album opens with “Occasionally,” a beautiful song brimming with soft, melancholic strings riding a rhythmic pulse somewhere between Leon Russell and Chris Isaak – sophisti-country. The highlight of the track is Lydia’s dulcet, expressive voice – simultaneously nostalgic and tender. Entry points include “Something To Say,” vaguely reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, only burnished by SoCal alt-country savours summoning up Poco. At the same time, Lydia’s Joni Mitchell-like voice bewitches listeners with gentle, nuanced timbres.
“Never Been Good” echoes the driving, alluring Jackson Browne colouration pumping out infectious layers of music, low-slung yet captivating. Whereas “Leave Me Empty” glimmers and gleams with delicious country-pop aromas accentuating Lydia’s lush, seductive voice. The baroque intro to “All The Time” conceals the beguiling surging energy that follows. Rounded and husky, on this track, Lydia’s voice takes on enchanting emerging hues.
The final two tracks on the album – “Stones” and “Just The Same” – convey a different commerce than the rest of the songs. Both are gorgeous yet seemingly depict memories rather than feelings, or perhaps memories of feelings no longer extant. Dark River elevates Lydia Luce from a good singer-songwriter to one of the crème de la crème.