My crossings with Lydia have been short. I once got a ticket to see Coheed and Cambria years ago before remembering Lydia and gang were in town on the same night (I took some stick for that one) and last years Holiday Hangout. But she’s always been on my stereo with her scratchy bar-country stylings. “Somewhere Else” showed a sound evolving into a tighter, cleaner sound. “Real” is the next step forward. The first almost totally hidden synthy notes in “Same To You” and jumpy bassline in “Heaven” were a surprise but begin to make sense. This is a pop album with all the lyric honesty and humour we’ve come to expect.
Gone is the whiskey soaked sounds of before. This is slicker and more dynamic than ever before. “Out Of Love” is little more than a guitar, double bass with accents and vocal harmonies. The only hints of her past sounds come towards the end on “European”, “Clumps” and the titular track. Lydia’s voice has never sounded so harnessed and pushed to the ragged edge of emotion before. The glue in the joints of this album is Benjamins bass playing. Strong and driving, lifting proceedings. The whole band feel more comfortable with the sounds being made than ever. I wrote this review in the evening sunlight with the windows open and is a perfect summer album. If the first two Lydia Loveless albums were for dive bars with dry rot, “Real” is beachside or Miami hotel rooftop bars. If said bars went for emotionally strong music over piano covers. I actually feel guilty for not writing this wearing a sports coat with sleeves pushed up over the elbow. There are moments where this album transcends artists and sounded like updated Kirsty MacColl.
If you aren’t listening to this album, mores the shame. “Real” is a perfect mix of jangly pop and cutting lyrics. Between this album and the forthcoming Gorman Bechard documentary “Who Is Lydia Loveless?“, 2016 is the year of Lydia Loveless.