Lylas: Lessons for Lovers

Jennifer Kelly

Nashville alt.brooders used to love you like a sister... now they want to teach you how to kiss.


Lessons for Lovers

Label: Fictitious
US Release Date: 2006-04-18
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate

Gentle, caressing, sparsely instrumented and ever so slightly country inflected, the songs on this Nashville chamber folk ensemble's first full length fizz with quietly expressed enthusiasm. Songwriter Kyle Hamlett consistently underplays a loaded hand, tossing off gorgeous melodies and literate verses with a studied nonchalance. His band -- brother Josh Hamlett on bass, Luke Schneider on pedal steel and Brice Blair on drums -- does the same, placing notes with care but never overdoing it. There's a lattice-work sense of space in all the songs, a half-buried quiet that makes their loveliness seem more fleeting. Even the relatively quick and upbeat "Tones and Echos" with its tap-dancing percussion and gorgeous harmonies, is airy and light and speckled with silence.

Hamlett's voice resembles Joe Pernice circa Chappaquidick Skyline, the same high-ish timbre, the same light slide across intervals, the same engaging huskiness in the crevices. That's a reasonable comparison, too, since Hamlett's songs have a melancholy directness that you'll find in Pernice's more downbeat songs; it's as if he's just talking to you about life and love, and somehow, it rhymes and scans and fits the notes. "Home and Hugs", for instance, starts with Hamlett singing, "I need home... /I need hugs..." in a purely conversational tone, aching and honest.

The album is structured around brief three instrumental lessons in love. The first, just 24 seconds long, is called "Lesson 1: Saying I Love You". About halfway through the album, there is another, just pizzicato string plucks, just 28 seconds, called "Lesson 11: When a Lovely, Young Dish Unravels," while near the end, an interval of strings and winds is the wistful conclusion, "Lesson 28: Last Kiss Rehearsal". These cuts focus the discussion squarely on matters of the heart, the central theme of the album.

The songs are all about love, but from vastly different perspectives and in slightly different styles. "His Master's Merriment", darker and more muscular than the other cuts, slips in disturbing lyrics about abandonment and spills on magazine photos. The title cut has a son talking to his mother just before his wedding, deeply conflicted about the whole topic of love. "I'm so nervous/ I want to lock myself and bury/ Me deep inside/ No more giving me away," he sings, against a flutter of airy folk guitar, instrumental prettiness battling anxious lyrics. There's a sweetness in the singing that is not necessarily reflected in the songs themselves, and that gives Lylas an interesting edge.

If you're a tweener girl, you might recognize Lylas as an acronym for "love you like a sister". It's an innocent, girlish sort of sentiment, uncomplicated and full of promise. Lessons for Lovers sounds just as fresh and lovely on the surface, but harboring adult contradictions underneath.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

The husband and wife duo DEGA center their latest slick synthpop soundscape around the concept of love in all of its stages.

Kalen and Aslyn Nash are an indie pop super-couple if there ever were such a thing. Before becoming as a musical duo themselves, the husband and wife duo put their best feet forward with other projects that saw them acclaim. Kalen previously provided his chops as a singer-songwriter to the Georgia Americana band, Ponderosa. Meanwhile, Aslyn was signed as a solo artist to Capitol while also providing background vocals for Ke$ha. Now, they're blending all of those individual experiences together in their latest project, DEGA.

Keep reading... Show less

On "Restless Mind", Paul Luc establishes himself as an exceptional 21st century bard who knows his way around evoking complex emotions in song.

The folk-rock swing of Paul Luc's upcoming Bad Seed is representative of the whole human condition. Following his previous track release in "Slow Dancing", the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter is sharing another mid-tempo, soulful number. This time, it describes the way too familiar feelings of uncertainty and diversion can, at times, sneak up on all of us.

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

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