If you were to listen to Lovers’ I Am the West and guess what label the album was released on, you might reasonably guess Olympia, Washington’s K Records. You would be wrong, Lovers is currently signed to Pop Heart Records, but the group is based in Portland, and primary member Carolyn Berk simply embodies the kind of Pacific Northwestern sentimentality that K Records is known for.
I Am the West is supposed to be Lovers’ “pop record,” so to speak. Berk doesn’t have Timbaland making her beats or anything, but the sound of this latest record is an expansive graduation on her previous work, with the addition of members Kerby Ferris and Emily Kingan clearly making a deep impression on the record’s sound.
Berk’s intention in making a “pop record,” I suppose, is to make her wistful, yearning, introspection more accessible to folks who need more than an earnest voice to get through an LP. But more than that, people who appreciate pop need a variation in the mood and tone of an album. Berk’s wordy, half-sung lyricizing strikes the same tone throughout almost every track on I Am the West, with few exceptions, like “Imaginary Women.” The result is a blurred-together stream of aimless feeling that sometimes leaves the listener aimless as well.
The sincere, bleeding singer-songwriter thing is a good schtick if you work it the right way, and you can make people believe that you’re really letting them see the inside of your heart. Berk has that part down. Now all she needs is a way to translate the thrill, pain, and relish of that organ’s music to record.