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Review: Lake Street Dive’s ‘Free Yourself Up’ Shrewdly Conjures Retro Pleasures

The retro-soul band’s new album is likable, though not always as well-crafted as the classics they admire

Review: Lake Street Dive's 'Free Yourself Up' Shrewdly Conjures Retro Pleasures

Lake Street Dive's sixth album is 'Free Yourself Up.'

Shervin Lainez

Rachael Price’s voice comes at you like a muscle car of music history, blues and bebop detailing on a classic soul ‘n’ rock chassis, and her band’s latest set comes with songcraft grown tighter and more polished, shrewdly conjuring retro pleasures per usual. The funky-pop strut “Shame Shame Shame,” for example, isn’t the 1974 Shirley and Company proto-disco hit. But it might make for an excellent mash-up with it, and like its predecessor, can be read as a timely dress-down of a barefaced President on impeachment’s brink, though it also works fine as general-purpose bad-dog-scolding.

Like the whole set, it’s expertly-crafted and likable, but rarely as gripping as its models. Sassy touches help throughout: the disco synth filigree on “Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts;” the wonky Seventies heavy-rock guitars on “You Are Free;” the playfully brazen, self-deprecating wit of “Good Kisser.” Elsewhere, though, boilerplate, occasionally dubious rhymes (“We used to kick it like Joe and Obama/Now you just leave me at home playing mama”) and comfort-food hooks sell the band short. The highlights show off their ace chops in less predictable ways. For Price that’s the ballads “I Can Change” and “Musta Been Something,” the latter articulated with her tastefully spectacular held notes and a blue trumpet on the outro. For the rest of the band, that’s anything that lets ’em stretch, like the untucked jam capping “Dude” and especially the set-closer “Hang On,” which takes the form of an old A.M. radio anthem, but spiked with tricky changes that remind you this is a jazzbo crew at root. Would that the rest of the LP remind you of that more often.

In This Article: Lake Street Dive

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