In the song "Garden Rose," on Lavender Diamond's first full-length, Becky Stark sings, "I started to remember how to live in present time." Odd, since Stark seems thoroughly anti-modern. With her crystalline, beautiful voice and thrift-store style, she harks back at least to original folk chanteuses like Joni Mitchell, if not further to 1920s Broadway songbirds. Imagine Our Love is certainly unlike anything that's ever been on Matador: I don't think there is a plugged-in guitar on any of the album's twelve tracks. But what's electric -- and what makes the album so successful -- is that voice of Stark's and the purely positive worldview she emotes through it.[more:]
At the center of Imagine is nothing less than the ability of music to triumph over adversity. The album opens with "Oh No," on which Stark wonders, "When will I love again?" But like "You Broke My Heart," the standout track on the band's Cavalry of Light EP (re-released earlier this year by Matador), the song builds up out of despair and into hope, pushed along by the great piano work of Steve Gregoropoulos. "Dance Until It's Tomorrow," "Find a Way," and "Bring Me a Song" are similar subtle epics, with Stark's pipes pushing things up into celestial territory.
Lavender Diamond handles a wide array of song styles on the album. "Side of the Lord" is a country jamboree that slyly mocks the constant debate over religion in this country, with lyrics like, "I must be on the side of the Lord/ But I don't know if I'm to the left or to the right." "I'll Never Lie Again" is slow and sullen. At a recent concert, Stark explained that the lie she's singing of in the song is the one so many people tell themselves about their inability to achieve their dreams. "Like an Arrow" is almost tribal, with its simple, insistent beat provided by drummer (and album-cover artist) Ron Rege Jr., over which Stark chants the song's title and repeats the word "closer." And "Here Comes One" is a fun piano mover that wouldn't have been out of place on a '70s Fleetwood Mac record.
Call Stark too cutesy (she certainly gets that way on "My Shadow Is a Monday"). Call her extolling of the power of peace, love, and music naive. The thing is, she gets away with it with her winning charm and amazing voice.
***"Open Your Heart" video
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