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Album Review: “November Birthday” by Lightning Love

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

by Abby Holmes

You’d be hard-pressed to find a trio more adorable than Lightning Love, and that’s majorly due to vocalist/keyboardist Leah Diehl’s cartoony voice and indie-cute fashion sense (not to mention that darling smile that probably helps her “Friends” forgive her after an embarrassing night of drinking).

Anyone who’s ever been 22 can probably relate to Lightning Love’s lyrics, which include the aforementioned chain of alcohol-induced events from “Friends”: “Well, they all had a laugh when I climbed up the shaft/ and I pissed in the elevator in that old parking garage/ but I really wish they hadn’t watched/ And they thought it was cute ’til I kicked off my shoes/ and I started to puke/ and my friends, well, they all walked away/ I thought real friends would have stayed.” Take note: The college/post-college experience that lacks a similar anecdote is truly only a partial experience.

Guitarist Ben Collins and drummer Aaron Diehl round out the lineup of sandy-haired youngsters from Michigan. The group’s debut LP, November Birthday, went on sale last year. A dozen electro-pop tunes splay drops of sunshine across these dreary months, like a musical scarf to warm up your wintertime.

Diehl’s self-deprecating lyrics are present throughout the record, lamenting professional obligation, a life without ambition, relationship disasters, cold weather, dealing with grown-ups, and becoming a grown-up. But she’s good about reminding herself that it’s all a part of life, so even while it’s getting her down, she doesn’t let it bury her. “I fail at everything/ And every day’s the same/ I’m human, that’s what happens/ and there’s no one else to blame,” Diehl sings on “Girls Are Always Wrong.”

The way the child-like musicality conflicts with the mature subject matter in the lyrics is almost in itself the starring point of November Birthday. It’s like Diehl’s way of negotiating a life she’s not ready to leave behind with a life she has to grow into, standing her ground somewhere at the cusp of those two phases. Old enough to drink and smoke and sleep around, but still too young to be expected to know better, consequences be damned. On “Good Time,” the keyboard melody begins forebodingly to illustrate the shame she doesn’t feel about transgressions she doesn’t regret only to cheerily climax with the declaration, “I can’t help having a good time.” And why should she? If there’s any time to be making mistakes, it’s in your early 20s, when you can still sort of get away with it.

Wait, Wait

Diehl puts her heart on her sleeve for “Wait, Wait,” revealing a moment of vulnerability that forces her to evaluate her priorities. Perhaps after the passage of a few more birthdays, Lightning Love will have a new sound to match its growth — but one can secretly hope the trio continues to sound just like it does already, because what Lightning Love has now is pure perfection.

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