These days it seems that most of the bands influenced by the early ’90s “shoegazer” scene or interested in making similarly dreamlike music work in the electronic or ambient fields. The Philadelphia rock quartet Lenola are one of the groups who have a similar musical purpose but fall squarely within the realm of rock and roll. As their career progresses, they’ve been adding more pop form to their songs, and becoming a bit less out-there, but they still surround their songs with a glaze of psychedelic sound.
Lenola’s latest full-length release, Treat Me To Some Life, is a mix of snappy pop tunes and Flaming Lips-ish rock numbers, all flavored with an expansive, dreamy swirl. Their lyrics are not obvious but sort of obtuse, alluding to love and life and all the other eternal topics, but with a poetic mysteriousness. They don’t communicate, but suggest. Take a line like this one: “Before I go, before I leave / Could you say it again repeatedly” (from the album’s first track, “First Floor Killer”. It leaves quite an emotional impact, without ever revealing what the “it” is.
The band’s sound is created through mostly your usual rock instruments, and recorded with a relatively “low-tech”, home-taping approach. It’s not the techniques or the instruments, but the sounds they make and what they do with them that makes Lenola unique. Musically there’s a lot going on in each track, from soaring guitar riffs to eccentric effects and textures. Yet beneath it all, their songs are relatively straightforward, as evidenced by a jangly pop song like “Cast Your Lines”, where they take some of the experimental veneer away and just play it straight. They can dress up their songs until they whirl your head into a dream, but take the outfit away and the songs still hit you hard.
I could describe, classify and categorize Lenola all day, but I’d only be telling a small part of the story. What makes Lenola so special is the warm glow that their songs exude. Songs like “White-Lined Knuckle Landing” and “Come Back to Retreat” are so stunningly gorgeous that reams of paper filled with big words and reference points could do little or no justice to them. To me, my intellectual justifications for Lenola’s greatness matter less than how comfortable their songs felt the first time I played them. Treat Me To Some Life has a happy radiance to it. It’s like a gentle dream that makes you feel good inside, and that, my friends, is priceless.