Lung of Love
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
If there’s one thing Amy Ray fans can count on, it’s the sometime-Indigo Girl’s kinship with incredible harmonies. And it only make sense that on her most collaborative solo album to date (Ray, usually a lone songwriting ranger, co-penned Lung of Love with producer Greg Griffith), those harmonies keep its 10 songs in-tact.
There are some odd choices on Lung of Love, which, for better or worse, has the feel of a record that came together with great passion and immediacy, but not much belaboring over sequencing and synchronicity. The twangy “When You’re Gone You’re Gone” is a tepid opener that allows a wide berth for subsequent power-pop gem “Glow.” The one-two punch could have worked, and may have proved more awkward in reverse, but that surge gets muted once “Glow” fades into the decided melancholy of “I Didn’t,” foreshadowing a tendency to sidestep any binding, dominant energy.
Even if Lung occasionally trips over its own bigger picture, each of Ray’s individual snapshots are fairly spectacular. “I Didn’t” isn’t ideally sandwiched between “Glow” and confrontational rocker “From Haiti,” but it’s a terrific distortion-ballad that showcases some of the album’s most tender harmonies, incisive lyrics (“I left you with a handful of love songs and a reason to be free/And someone broke your heart/I didn’t/Someone played too hard/I didn’t”) and emotive guitars.
Likewise, the title track boasts vintage “na na na” sighs during its gorgeous, sweetly arranged chorus, trading off that pop sugar for meaty, Raspberries-channeled riffs and snappy handclaps throughout the verses. It’s a great complement to penultimate track “Give it a Go,” a scrappy, lo-fi flash of rollicking snares and wild solos that’s also Lung’s best use of ex-Butchies Melissa York (drums) and Kaia Wilson’s (guitar, vocals) roaring tendencies with their former band.
Amid an album of unusual couplings, side-by-side offerings “A Little Revolution” and “The Rock is My Foundation” succinctly illustrate Ray’s challenges and triumphs while creating a solo artistic statement. Halfway through the former, Ray acknowledges, “There’s a little Joe Strummer in my DNA” over mid-tempo punk rhythms. Just as quickly, “Rock is My Foundation” swaps Fenders for Appalachian picking and southern acoustic-soul. Ray is, above all else, bursting with heart, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, and that heady flush of humanity is what makes Lung of Love so near-perfectly imperfect.