A lot of bands like to be absolutely clear about what their sound should be interpreted as. “We sound a lot like Wilco” is the one I hear most (I’m in Chicago, after all). Other artists don’t get bogged down in labeling their music, and I think that’s the category Lyn Saga falls into. You can point out influences all over the place, but there are stylistic changes every time one track ends and the next begins, so it’s hard to pin her down.
Venice kicks off with a Top 40-type radio friendly song called “The Day We Met.” It feels a little generic and isn’t really representative of the next nine tracks. This is my least favorite song on the album. Not that it’s bad, but as the first thing you hear, it doesn’t prepare you at all for what’s coming next. Things really pick up once you make it past this one.
“I Believe” gets into more of a indie-pop/rock groove that I found very agreeable. Saga’s voice can play up the hurt, vulnerable little girl when she wants to. She’s much more comfortable playing the empowered figure taking responsibility for mistakes and trying to right wrongs.
She’s a talented guitarist as well, playing riffs reminiscent of great 90’s alt/rock like Smashing Pumpkins. Her lyrics are from the other side of the musical spectrum, with the pop sensibility of a younger Rivers Cuomo. Never more evident than the song “The Only One.” She sounds a little like a punk rock version of Jenny Lewis and she steals the line “You know what I’d do for you, anything you’d ask me to. Put my makeup on the shelf and laugh for nobody else.”
I’m a sucker for songs that callback to the girl groups of the early and mid-60’s, particularly The Shangri-La’s or Tommy James & The Shondelles. So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite tracks here is “Stay.” It pays homage to the era perfectly-the harmonies, the fingersnaps, the little section of talking. It’s a perfect trap for anyone who appreciates those old songs.
As usual, Saga doesn’t stay in the 60’s for long. The next track she’s right back to the rock mold that she enjoys playing with so much. There are some horns thrown in on this song that really make it stand out. For all the fanfare that the horns bring, this is also probably the most cynical song, lyrically, on Venice. She’s trying to prove herself to someone here, and she tells them “When I was small you told me I’d grow up and be happy. Buy a house and get married and have three kids. But now that I am older I feel like I know better. Spend weekends in the gutter with all my friends.”
She gets dark a few times on the record, approaching the causticity of Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville without coming off quite so angry. What keeps the album from getting bogged down is Saga’s desire to keep things rolling. The songs are mostly delivered at a gallop, and when they do slow down its only for a brief moment. The, roughly, thirty minutes of music flies by in a blink.
Venice is Lyn Saga’s second release, following an EP that came out in 2011 called The Ball Of String. A tour in support of the new album is on the horizon, but for now only a handful of dates have been booked-almost exclusively on the west coast.
Venice is available digitally on iTunes.