I once interviewed a musician who told me that the strength of a song is best determined by how it sounds at its most stripped-down. Weaker songs can get a boost with overdubbing, tweaking in production, and through any number of other bells and whistles, but quality songs don’t need much beyond the melody and rhythm to fully engage. Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Lightning Love, over the course of the 11 songs on their debut November Birthday, turn out some of the best minimal pop in recent memory.
Keys, guitar, and drums — with momentary support from cello and accordion — are all that the trio uses in creating their bouncy electro-pop sonic palette. Singer/keyboardist Leah Diehl has a great sense of melody and composition; her melodies are simple and time-tested. The intricacies come from the arrangements, from each group member’s ability to know when best to step in and out of the spotlight.
“Girls Are Always Wrong” and “Good Time” are staccato bursts of pitch-perfect nervy pop. The former boasts a bouncy digitized beat and burbling synth leads that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Missing Persons album. On the latter, the keys have perfect textures, the drums have a great ’80s snap to their production, all of which provide a joyous release for Diehl’s plea: “I can’t help having a good time.” No one can begrudge a band for that sentiment, especially when it yields music as good as this.
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