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October 2021
Album review

Lakes - Start Again

Brighter and bolder than what’s gone before.
Label: Big Scary Monsters
Released: 30th July 2021
Rating: ★★★★★
Lakes - Start Again
Published: 11:06 am, August 19, 2021Words: Rob Mair.

Watford’s Lakes have a glockenspiel, and they know how to use it. Indeed, built on the back of these tinkling keys, the self-styled ‘glock-rock’ math/emo troupe have had quite the stellar two years, inking a Stateside record deal with Know Hope before teaming up with UK legends Big Scary Monsters ahead of the release of second album ‘Start Again’.

Yet, while it hints at a whirlwind success built off the back of 2019’s excellent ‘The Constance LP’, Lakes’ journey to the top has as much to do with perseverance as it does luck or serendipity.

It helps too that the sextet can write some inspiring – and inspired – math-rock/indie/emo. There’s undoubtedly a debt of gratitude to the old Midwest emo sound – and this goes far beyond the obvious touchstones of American Football and the Appleseed Cast and deep into the catalogues of Deep Elm, Crank! and Jade Tree – but a love of modern pop and big hooks helps bring these references bang up to date.

Indeed, lead single ‘Start Again’ is the perfect example of this melding of genres; layered gang vocals and juddering rhythms give way to a chorus so joyous that it just wants to run freewheeling into the sunset. It’s a similar story on ‘Matches’ and ‘No Excuses’, too, where intelligent song structures and the duelling vocals of Roberto Cappellina and Blue Jenkins combine to great effect. It’s not a stretch to say there’s often a lot going on – indeed, it’s easy to get lost trying to follow instruments in isolation – but there’s also a beauty to much of ‘Start Again’, as if Lakes have finally found a way to make order out of chaos.

And although this might give a sense that ‘Start Again’ is more refined than its predecessor, the opposite is true. Everything is brighter and bolder than what’s gone before, but a frantic – urgent, even – undercurrent constantly struggles to emerge. Sometimes it manifests wildly – like on ‘Peace’ or ‘Animals’ – but more often, it bubbles to the surface as a swell of musicality and emotions (‘Get Better’, Retrograde’).

Much has been written about the ‘Fifth Wave’ of emo, with little mention of what’s happening in the UK. That should come as little surprise – usually, the UK follows in such trends, after all – but Lakes are so vital to the narrative they deserve a leading role in such discourse.

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