Lemolo: Kaleidoscope

Up-and-coming Seattle duo shows dreamy, melodic promise.



Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2012-06-03
Artist Website

One can’t quite help but play the old, inevitable “name that musical influence” game when listening to Seattle duo Lemolo’s self-released debut Kaleidoscope. Lemolo’s slow, mournful, driving sound brings to mind names like Codeine, Low, and Red House Painters. These are pretty standard reference points in this day and age and rightfully so; I myself am very fond of these sometimes-called “slowcore” bands of the early 1990s. But Lemolo do not stop with these fairly mopy citations; the heavily distorted, burning, crunching guitar line that makes itself known on opening track "Knives" brings to mind names like Earth, The Dirty Three, and even Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack. Now, if you were reading this description without having heard Lemolo’s music, you might get the impression that these two young women are making some very morose, grim, and punishing music, but such an assumption would miss the gorgeous melodies, vocal harmonies, and general prettiness that make up the backbone of Lemolo’s sound. These quieter, softer moments evoke names like Regina Spektor and Tori Amos; however, the more stripped down, melodic, tracks often give the impression that Kaleidoscope is the first step towards something greater that will manifest further down the road. You occasionally get the sense that you are listening to a burgeoning songwriter ensconced in her bedroom pounding away on her keyboard, still figuring out her strengths and weaknesses.

Lemolo really start raising the old goose-bumps when they sound less like a singer/songwriter project, and more like a band. The above-mentioned "Knives" is an excellent example of this; a simple keyboard line and Meagan Grandhall’s emotional, compelling vocals soon give way to a towering, reverb-laden guitar part and Kendra Cox’s pounding, echoing percussion. The track rolls and booms, intensifying as the duo harmonize and add textures to their sound. Somewhere around the three-minute mark, "Knives" lurches into full gear, increasing its tempo and turning both the guitar line and the percussion loose. Here Lemolo really allow themselves to rock, and rock they do. "Knives" sets an early precedent for what Lemolo do best, which includes guitar, percussion, and keyboard lines. Some of the more scaled-back tracks that follow feel a bit hollow in comparison: always pretty, but often missing the emotion punch of the fully fleshed-out "Knives".

Although Kaleidoscope's opening track starts the album very effectively, seventh track "On Again, Off Again" is clearly the highpoint of the record. As on "Knives", Lemolo build their momentum slowly, but relentlessly. Percussion reverberates around a hazy, shoegaze-y guitar part, while Grandhall and Cox moan the refrain, “It’s so on again…and…off again…”, as the track continues to gain strength. Lemolo’s lyrics for "On Again, Off Again" find that difficult balance between empowerment, and despair; self-affirmation and misery. The track roils to a dramatic mid-song climax before slowly cycling back down again and fading out. Again, one is reminded of some of Codeine’s finest moments, songs that are at once heartbreaking and triumphant. "On Again, Off Again" illustrates that Lemolo have not just crafted a dynamic sound from desperate influences; they are in the process of becoming gifted songwriters.

Lemolo are not quite there yet with Kaleidoscope. The contrast between the fully-realized songs and the pleasant, but somewhat forgettable interludes is often great. I can attest, however, that Lemolo can be devastating live. In spite of their restrictions as a duo, Lemolo are able to pull off their more powerful songs amazingly well in a live setting. Nonetheless, I am unable to suppress a nagging desire for Lemolo to add a lead guitar player or full-time keyboardist to their lineup; such an addition would play to their strengths and help augment their sound. Kaleidoscope is an indication of big things to come. Once Lemolo have been signed to a good label and written some more songs on the scale of "Knives" and "On Again, Off Again", we will all be in store for something very special.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.