Moving forward with my series, Your Twenties Are a Motherfucker But It Probably Gets Worse (NB: I don't personally think it does...at least not for a while...), there is no better conveyor of suck-titude than Lydia Loveless. I find Loveless' records difficult to listen to at times -- not because of the subject matter, necessarily, but because of the weight Loveless and her band (Ben Lamb on bass, Todd May on guitar, George Hondroulis on drums, and multi-instrumentalist Jay Gaspar) bring to her songs. In my mind, at least, they're not particularly hook-laden, making it difficult to drunkenly and/or forlornly sing along with Loveless. The end result is that these songs are purely Loveless': nobody else is able to replicate these songs in the way Loveless and her collaborators can, making her music truly unique.
Real feels more experimental than her previous work. For one thing, the mix rightly features Loveless' voice, making it much easier to hear the lyrics (and shyly attempt to sing along.) The first three songs on the album feel familiar -- Loveless' lonely vocals uncannily juxtaposed with a lush country sound, making her seem even more isolated. But "Heaven," with a drum loop-like beat and funky bassline, branches into what could be pop territory, if not for the band's insular performances. The rest of the album explores sonic territory from there. While Sturgill Simpson and Austin Lucas have been dabbling in "psychedelic country," Real feels...post-country. The elements are there, to be sure: songs in the key of G, pedal steel guitars, twang, critiques of countrylife. But you'd be hard-pressed to explain how the songs from "Heaven" onward can sit side by side with Cash and Waylon, other than the sense that they're best enjoyed at the bottom of the bottle.
Anyone who's been paying attention know that Lydia Loveless is one of the great songwriters and singers, respectively. Real cements her -- and the band, which I don't think I can stress enough -- as artists.
Lydia Loveless -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from Bloodshot Records
EDIT: Corrected the names of the band members. Apparently the press release I referred to was outdated.