3 1/2 out of 5 stars
There is no waiting to hear singer Rachael Price as you push play on the opening track of Lake Street Dive’s first release in three years. On “Hypotheticals,” she sings the title of the album with “Obviously… we’re at the beginning of something,” over an atmospheric R&B/jazz groove. The song shifts into the slick, slightly funky/jazzy, ‘70s influenced pop that LSD has been refining over prior sets.
This isn’t a surprise since the quintet’s previous releases have been so popular. Price fronts what is a rather anonymous, if not thoroughly professional, backing unit with her husky, expressive vocals that take center stage on every track. Whether it’s a duet with keyboardist/singer Akie Bermiss on “Same Old News,” the Stevie Wonder-inflected “Lackluster Lover” or the easy flowing Doobie Brothers (the Michael McDonald years)/Boz Scaggs sweet soul of “Know That I Know,” Lake Street Dive carves out their sound and sticks to that blueprint for eleven tracks.
The band also infuses a sharp socio-political slant in the lyrics of some selections. They give environmental warnings to the next generation in “Making Do” and pay homage to female empowerment in “Being a Woman.”
While the term “yacht rock” has a negative connotation, this music unapologetically mines that often honeyed, easy-on-the-ears vibe. Yet these songs are so flawlessly written, played and especially sung by the golden-throated Price. Once hooked into the band’s sumptuous approach, it’s hard to pull away. LSD employed producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Mary J. Blige, Carrie Underwood) to help focus this delightfully melodic mélange. Kudos to songwriter/bassist Bridget Kearney, whose innovative stand-up work injects classy, inventive jazz chops. She and trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson bring an edge to music that might otherwise fade into creative if conventional quiet storm soul.
Think Steely Dan minus Becker and Fagen’s wry, occasionally sneering lyrics, and you’re getting warm to Lake Street Dive’s approach.