Spotlight: Lake Street Dive

Published Mar 6, 2014 at 01:21PM

“BAD SELF PORTRAITS”

Signature Sounds Recordings

The originally Boston-based band Lake Street Dive (now headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y.) is poised for the big time. After attracting 1.2 million hits on YouTube for a sidewalk-rendition cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” recorded in 2012, the band’s star track has been ascending rapidly. Not only is the band now playing the likes of Carnegie Hall, the group appeared last year as part of an all-star concert to promote the Coen Brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Jaws reportedly dropped, and the band is said to have upstaged the likes of Marcus Mumford and Joan Baez. Now, even Stephen Colbert has come knocking, and the group recently appeared on “The Colbert Report.” (A spokesperson for Lake Street Dive admitted to me in passing that Colbert personally insisted that the outfit make its TV debut with him.) This band is attracting fans in high places, and for good reason.

“Bad Self Portraits,” taking its cues from the social media “selfie” phenomenon, is a startling record, one that shows the group tightening up its songwriting chops and presenting a unified statement, front to back. Lead singer Rachael Price sounds as disaffected as ever, and — though she throws some of the vocal leads to her male band mates, particularly on the song “Seventeen” — she’s still a commanding (and, as others have noted, loud) presence.

But “Bad Self Portraits” is notable for dialing down some of the jazziness of Lake Street Dive’s previous, self-titled full length. You have to get a few tracks in before you hear the group’s distinctive horns, and Bridget Kearney’s thick thunk-a-thunk-a stand-up bass lines don’t really get a chance to shine until the third track, “Better Than.”

So, “Bad Self Portraits” is a much more streamlined and rock-ist affair than “Lake Street Dive,” and even though it doesn’t reach the same heights in terms of bowling you off your feet and knocking you over with infectiousness, it is still an excellent record, and one that sees the group emerging as much more mature and self-confident. “Bad Self Portraits” shucks the adage that anything released in the depths of winter is dross.

— Zachary Houle, PopMatters