Ever since the news broke that pop-rock trio Lemuria signed to Bridge Nine Records, fans have been moderately concerned over how their new album would sound. Bridge Nine is known for its roster of hardcore acts such as Have Heart and Agnostic Front. Lemuria was an odd fit at the very least. Luckily, their latest, Pebble, released January 11, doesn’t sound like they have changed their name to xXLemuriaXx.
This album is a reflection of getting older. The songs address the issues of long-term relationships and being a professional, but not very well-paid, musician. The wild naiveté and raw sexuality they previously built their sound around isn’t there anymore. They have gotten older, and so have their songs. And it’s always interesting to see where this maturation takes a band’s music. Lemuria has accepted it and turned it into some of their most interesting and honest material yet.
Pebble does mark quite an evolution in Lemuria’s sound. Album opener “Gravity” is an incredibly sluggish, subdued song with just enough drums and guitar to give the song cohesion. Over its two-and-a-half minutes it builds in intensity a number of times, only to fall back to where it began, never breaking. It was a bold move to make it the first track, but it really does set the tone for the rest of the album. Pebble is refined and polished in a way that is a stark contrast to the barely constrained energy of previous efforts. Whereas those first releases were like Superchunk on speed at times, their latest effort really shows how this band has not just matured as musicians and songwriters, but as people.
“Gravity” gives away that this album is going to be slower and more thoughtful. For the first time in their history, Lemuria’s songs actually feel long. Before, they plowed through with such intensity that even a three minute track would feel like it was over in 30 seconds, but the songs on Pebble have room to breathe, they take their time, and it really allows them to sink in. Even if the song isn’t slow tempo-wise, the instrumentation just feels slower and more thought-out. The sluggish guitars that make “Gravity” stand out are really a feature on the whole album. “Irregular,” one of the faster tracks, still feels slower because of the thick fuzz and strumming patterns of Sheena Ozzella. Because she is the sole guitarist and there is typically only one guitar track on the songs, she has a lot of space to fill, and it’s done quite well.
One downside to this new, slower approach is the lack of more complex drumbeats. Drummer/vocalist Alex Kerns has demonstrated in the past that he is extremely talented in coming up with interesting beats that don’t take focus away from the rest of the song, but on Pebble he seems to have dialed it back a bit too much. His patterns are at times too mundane and predictable. Fortunately, there are a few highlights. His work on “Durian” really elevates what is otherwise a rather mediocre song, and “Bloomer” is reminiscent of material off their first EPs, but otherwise, it really does match up to previous efforts.
Lyrically, the songs on Pebble are just as raw in their frank honesty as ones of their first full length, Get Better, and their earlier EPs and splits, but they more so acknowledge the hardships of becoming a real adult. The dual vocals from Kerns and Ozzella work together much as they have in the past, providing a familiarity through which these more emotionally difficult lyrics are conveyed. “Different Girls” and “Yellowstone Lady” examine the hardships of being in a relationship and in a constantly touring band. In “Different Girls,” Kerns sings “Every night on tour, I sleep with different girls/And we laugh about you/While you are at home/I am the worst/It’s in your imagination, of course.” It acknowledges the hardships and arguments that arise from a relatively unorthodox career. “Pleaser” only contains the refrains, “I am hinting hard/I am a hard hinter/I am a pleaser,” and “I never feel understood/and I understand why.” The simple honesty of shortcomings is one of the reasons “Pleaser” is easily the best song on Pebble; it says in 21 words what other bands dedicate entire albums to. It really is brilliant.
For those not ready to listen to a slower, more mature Lemuria, a couple of the songs sound like they could have been on Get Better, and will hopefully become live staples. “Bloomer,” as mentioned earlier, is fast and lyrically very similar to earlier material, reminiscing on the awkwardness of adolescence. Ozzella’s sole lyrical contribution, “The One,” is similar to her other songs, which are on average simpler than Kerns, more focused on raw emotion than storytelling or metaphor. And then there is “Pleaser,” fast-paced and incredibly basic, but also very similar sounding to frequent set closer, “Mechanical,” off of Get Better. “Pleaser” offers more in terms of song structure, it builds and breaks in waves of emotion. Yes, that’s cheesy, but Lemuria often deals in these visceral, raw reactions. “Pleaser” may be the best song they’ve released to date.
Pebble refines the fast-paced, emotional honesty Lemuria has become known for. Some may not instantly take to this more mature sound, but this is an album that definitely grows on you, and is a worthwhile investment for any fan of the band, or of good indie-tinged pop rock.