Guest review by Kori Rae
Little Red Lung’s debut full-length album “Beware” took me a few listens to process, and I mean that in the best way. It’s a piece certainly worthy of its “art rock” label; the album’s dichotomous nature of taking what is classic, doing it well, and twisting it into a slightly darker avant garde is extremely effective. I gave “Beware” three solid listens before taking any notes, and when I did, the first note I wrote was “psychedelic orchestra.” Most often when reviewing an album, I find myself picking out the thematic story presented and following along. As far as “Beware” goes, I have to be perfectly honest with you: I got lost inside of it far before I could have picked out a story. The good news is that when I say lost, I mean the best kind of lost—swept away, lost at sea with just music and my mind. It is entwined with nautical references, and patterns exist, but they come like waves. Time signatures and dropped keys burst in all throughout, and in those moment everything changes; it’s off-kilter in a delightful way, and a piece of recognizable music twists just so that it shifts from day to night with no hint of a hitch and leaves you spinning. It happens over and over again, but each time is unique and invigorating.
“Beware” opens with its title track, which offers airy female harmonies reminiscent of sirens at sea. It’s gentle and ethereal, and it lulls the listener into sleepy comfort just before the second track, “Porcupine Sheet” busts the door down with dirty bass setting a thumping new tone. Vocalist Zoe-Ruth Erwin brings a really cool mixture of power and grace. This was a wonderful track in that each piece of Little Red Lung is so well showcased; John Broekel flawlessly picks up on drums what Rob Hume started on bass, and Ali Nikou’s guitar melody is full of unpredictable choices with gorgeous execution. The lyrics fall into a box labeled “Curiouser and curiouser”—where exactly are we and what is going on? At this point, the journey is fully set. Erwin’s vocals paired with Hume’s harsh bass elicit such a wonderful balance in the third track, “Get on the Boat”, really bringing the slightly twisted nature of this album to light. It invites the listener in—you’ve been warned, you’ve been introduced, now get on the boat and join us.
The fourth track, “Dead Weight”, stood out to me the most each time I listened through. At first, it isn’t a particularly notable song; it’s pleasant with light vocals and post-rock melodies. A third of the way through, it shifts so seamlessly into this brilliant dark chorus with the notable time signature shift that I had to check and make sure it was still the same song. “They’ll have our heads for this/they’ll have our heads for this/if you can’t paddle fast/if you can’t kill me first/you’re dead weight” rings dark, and then suddenly it all switches back. It’s such a powerfully dynamic piece that perfectly illustrates the nature of “Beware” as a whole—it appears one way, then almost certainly shifts into something delightfully different.
Moving through “Beware” truly is an adventure. The feelings evoked are both fun and uneasy. “Bell Towers” is an outstanding marriage of Erwin’s strong vocal ability and Nikou’s comparably strong guitar. It reminded me of a mashup between Portishead and The Mars Volta. “Civilian Tiger” is just pretty all-around; gentle melodies and enchanting lyrics. “Our Ghost” is equally lovely and haunting, smooth and inviting the whole way through. The album picks back up again with “Operate”, which opens with a distinct 80s feel underlying a really interesting sing-song style of vocals and lyrics. This track felt drum-driven and full of energy. “Bad Blood” is a deliciously dark waltz reminiscent of Muse. The album closes with “Tightrope Spinning”—and what a strong closer it is. The gritty bass is back in full force, and Erwin’s vocal performance is just as raw, all the way from the curt beginning to the sleepy finale.
“Beware” is trippy and full of avant garde. It’s full of endless twists that will keep you on your toes. It’s an adventure that truly sucked me in and left me feeling both unsure of what exactly I experienced and extremely satisfied at the same time. Each song is unique, but the album as a whole works well as a solid art piece, even if it doesn’t feel obviously cohesive at times. Little Red Lung is currently releasing one song each month on Bandcamp and the band’s website (littleredlungmusic.com). Following the full release, “Beware” will be available in its entirety on limited edition 140G vinyl.