The World Is Real, 180G Black Vinyl LP
For Olympia, Wash.'s, LAKE, life seems sweet. Visit the indie pop collective's website, and you'll be greeted by this statement of purpose: "We play music together, record albums together, plays shows together, and eat snacks together." It sounds like a pretty decent gig, and LAKE try and make the most of it, as The World Is Real is the band's second full-length offering in 2013 (Circular Doorway was released on their Bandcamp page in July), their fourth for K Records, and their seventh overall since 2006. So, needless to say, LAKE like to keep busy, though you'd hardly suspect it after picking up one of their records. Instead, their sincere, polite, plucky music feels as all-natural as their naturalist worldview, with friends like R. Stevie Moore and Karl Blauoccasionally stopping by to jam, maybe even to share a snack or two. And while Circular Doorway was a more groove-focused-- an adult contempto take on chilled-out 70s AM make-out tunes-- The World Is Real is the sound of LAKE getting back to work, offering 11 new twee-ish, vaguely funky songs that are all very much in line with the ones they've been quietly whipping up for the better part of a decade.
There's something oxymoronic about LAKE's compulsive output: One LAKE album is really all you're ever going to need. The stakes for a band like this are pretty low, so it's important to try and focus on the small details that set The World Is Real apart or, at very least, how the songs stack up against the rest of the catalog. And for the most part, they stack up fine: While Circular Doorway earned itself some homey warmth from its modest production, The World Is Realis the most hi-fi thing the group's ever done. It's unlikely this is a calculated move to reach different sets of ears (or simply more of them), but rather one that made sense at the time given the added emphasis on vocal melodies, gummy bass lines, and varied instrumentation. Though certainly a more confident release, The World Is Real could be perceived as the work of band going through the motions. More likely, though, it's just the latest entry from one that is so comfortable and pleased with their sound, there's never been any real incentive to change much of anything. And yet, that doesn't answer the question of how much you're really going to need it.
LAKE have never had trouble being charming. Though it's not a ringing endorsement, The World Is Real sounds good while it's on-- good for having a drink in an Adirondack chair, good for barefooted Sundays spent padding around the apartment, especially good for riding bikes to. But LAKE do have trouble writing memorable songs, which continues to be a problem here. "Madagascar", from their breakthrough Let's Build a Roof, has always felt like an example of a successful LAKE track (thanks to its welcome ability to worm itself into your head), so it's nice to see them juicing it up a little with "Takin' My Time", an effective, albeit cheesy marriage of quaint R&B and Fleetwood-y warmth. "Composure" is more balanced, with its paisley patterns and tasteful horns cleverly juxtaposed against Ashley Eriksson's flat admissions of being selfish and conceited and a little dead inside. -Pitchfork