~FOREVER OR NEVER~
Any attempt for me to be objective in my opinions about his album are truly futile, because for me LAKE is that band that you’re with until the bitter end, for better or worse, Forever or Never. There would be no Secretly-Important had it not been for a chance discovery in the depths of itunes eight years ago, up to a point everything I did with this site was simply in effort to get to know this band. I’ve stood next to countless fans at countless shows who are unapologetic fans of a particular band, fans to an insufferable degree, fans of each and every song from the first note to the final waining last, and for me that band is LAKE. So was it chance that I discovered LAKE eight years ago while living in Los Angeles, not really looking for LAKE or anyone who makes music like they do. Is it chance that the first song I heard was On the Swing? Is it chance that the second song on this album is a revisitation of that song? I don’t have any answers, just as I don’t have many real answers when it comes to LAKE, real magic is kind of an unexplainable thing.
I first heard Forever or Never thanks to a cassette tape and a dubbing machine the band had set up at their 10th Anniversary show back in August of 2015. At the time there was much uncertainty surrounding the album, when it would be released or even who would be releasing it. I suppose that was the most LAKE way to hear one of their albums. That day celebrating the anniversary of the band by hearing them play every song they ever recorded in the order they were recorded was an amazing experience, and hearing this album for the first time on that day cemented the positive vibes that replaced the very air we breathed.
Did I say something about writing an objective review? Just impossible. When Turn Around opens with the guitar and percussion followed by Eli Moore’s vocals I get a little teary eyed, the song is quintessential LAKE and it transports me through the last eight years of my life and through each of LAKE’s seven previous albums. Forever or Never is a quintessential LAKE album with everything I tend to expect from them as artists. I hate to simplify twelve songs with a single one line review as much as I want to say that Forever or Never has less surprises than what we got with 2013’s (really, four years ago?) with Circular Doorway or The World is Real. If I was to use a mathematical algorithm accessing elements of LAKE songs to write an album this might be the album that algorithm would come up with.
That sounds so cold and inhuman, as if LAKE is not an acronym for the four founding member’s names but rather some advanced computer that spits out groovy jams that hint at Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, R. Stevie Moore, with a hint of R&B. When in reality LAKE is total humanity, and Forever or Never is all about the ugliness and the beauty of humanity. Though the first thing you’ll often read about LAKE is it’s husband and wife duo Eli Moore and Ashley Eriksson, LAKE is a true collaboration with anyone providing just about anything in the band at any time, no one member is relegated to a single task, and Markly Morrison takes the helm on songs like Work With What You Got, and Push and Pull. Andrew Dorsett the remainder of the core-four rounds things out, but the album calls upon a virtually unending cast of friends to provide numerous other elements to the album including Paul Benson who’s essentially a full member who played on tracks from Circular Doorway and now is heard on most tracks of Forever or Never.
While I say that this album is less surprising than the more freeform Circular Doorway or the synthesized rumblings on The World Is Real, there was plenty that kept me guessing:
-The reappearance and rework of On The Swing, the first song Ashley and Eli wrote together which appeared on Oh The Place We’ll Go. Here the song is more uptempo and pop-driven, trading in the sleigh bells, the crunchy bass, and the slow burn intro, for something more guitar driven and sudden.
-The heavily distorted guitar on Gone Against the Wind. LAKE is known to throw in a dirty rock guitar every once in a while, but this time it felt more blasting.
-The 80’s synthesized vibes on Trouble.
-The Beatles reminiscent strings on Christian Comedians. Maybe my musical knowledge is lacking but I always think of The Beatles when I hear strings like that, and LAKE uses them beautifully here. The real payoff comes halfway through the song.
In the end where Forever or Never really succeeds is in its insatiable melodies that feed into incredible hooks and sometimes actively work against them, as well as some of the best songwriting that LAKE has ever featured on an album. That second part I can’t quite put my finger on but the writing feels more exact than previous albums. The album was recorded at the Anacortes Unknown Studio with Nicholas Wilbur, a match which appears to have been made in heaven, as this album finds itself somewhere in between Circular Doorway and The World Is Real, as both an off the cuff sound and something meticulously planned out. It’s also worth mentioning that the album’s extraordinary closer Magazine, features Geneviève Castrée who sadly passed away last year, on backing vocals. The album is dedicated to her and when viewed in that context it has an added layer of beauty.
Forever or Never is out on April 7th on Tapete Records, and it’s exactly the album every LAKE fan wants, and just an excellent album all around that showcases the absolutely unique sound that the band works with. You can find LAKE at laketheband.com or laketheband.bandcamp.com.