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Lavender Diamond

Calvary of Light

(Matador; US: 30 Jan 2007; UK: Available as import)

The Los Angeles darlings of Lavender Diamond make for an unlikely Matador signing with only the most modest hints at appeal beyond their regional acclaim. Independently released last year, their Calvary of Light EP has been given broader re-release by the label to arouse interest in their forthcoming debut. It is hardly the most auspicious introduction. Marked by the humble hooks and creative hesitancy all too common among the studio efforts of so many struggling bands, the EP strolls through four tracks in an amiable albeit humdrum stride. That affably unhurried spirit seems earnest enough and likely accounts for a good deal of the swooning sway the band has over audiences at home. Vocalist Beck Stark is unquestionably crush-worthy with a voice of incredible range. Regrettably she seems unable to back it up with any body and rarely overcomes a wispy fragility. Opener “You Broke My Heart” succeeds anyway with its recurring crescendos coming in on cue for a politely uplifting anthem. As a waltzing ballad arriving decades too late for its era, “Please” also proves understatedly strong. Nothing else fairs quite as well. Alternating between vaporous verses and saccharine sing-a-long choruses, “In Heaven There is No Heat” goes nowhere yet still seems inexplicably overjoyed to get there. “Rise in the Sprintime” layers orchestral pomp over stately twee but remains unpalatably simplistic. Ultimately that wide-eyed cheer and Starks’s brittle vocals get a bit bracing. May be leaving their Laurel Canyon leanings unleavened could have lead to something more substantial, but as it was (and is) Lavender Diamond’s debut doesn’t make much of an impact.

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