Track for track, Lazenby's sound defies categorisation.
Jack Jewers 2008
Until very recently, you either had to be very cool or very well connected to have heard of Lazenby. Formed in 2004 from the ashes of an unsuccessful record deal, they gradually made a name for themselves playing music industry gigs (including the uber-exclusive MTV party at the Cannes Film Festival) and acquiring a raft of celebrity admirers. Now they're pitching for mass appeal with their self-produced debut album, The Loft Years – so-called because it was almost entirely put together in guitarist Nick Lockwood's loft.
Lead singer Sarah Lazenby has a voice like dry martini; sultry and emotive, although her technical polish occasionally jars with the deliberate oddness of the mix. A track like Listening To Joni, for example, is crying out for just a little vocal roughness; maybe a pack of Marlborough Reds before going into the studio. Otherwise it's a fine opener, a cheerfully defiant post-breakup song with refreshingly unusual influences; the rolling organ intro is strongly reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, and then of course there's the eponymous 'Joni' herself.
Indeed, this is an album that wears its influences proudly. The song, If, is a glorious mixture of strings and woodwind, combined with a distinctly Portishead-esque arrangement. And yet, it isn't remotely derivative. Track for track, Lazenby's sound defies categorisation. It's part jazz, part soul, with a smearing of dirty guitar and drums throbbing away under the surface like a 70s rock hangover.
So what’s not to like? Well, for such a creative piece of work, The Loft Years is occasionally marked by a certain lack of lyrical sophistication. In truth, this isn't always a bad thing; Rose is so intricately layered with instrumentation that anything more might just be overkill, but the rhyming couplets about Martin Luther King on Circle Of Angels are a little too close to teenage poetry.
Overall, however, The Loft Years is a startlingly original piece of work that represents all that's great about how music is made and distributed in the post-Myspace age. More power to them.