Ivy, how do I love thee? Well, let me tell you.
About the time their debut EP, Lately, came out in
1995, I went to see Lloyd Cole, and Ivy opened the
show. I knew nothing of them at all, but I was immediately
attached to their music. There could have been a couple of
reasons why: was it chanteuse Dominique Durand’s lovely
French accented coo? Was it the beautiful, melodic guitar
passages? Was it that ethereal pop vibe that I so thrive on?
Whatever the core reason (all three, I think), I waited with
baited breath for their debut album, Realistic. I fell
in love again…then was left waiting for more. Then two years
later, we were treated to their stunning follow-up, Apartment
Life. Durand, multi-dimensional musician Andy Chase
and Fountains Of Wayne leader Adam Schlesinger
avoided the sophomore jinx and laid out a platter full of
crisp ethereal pop tunes colored with horns and organs…but
not so much that it ruined the essence of the tunes.
Us fans had to wait almost three years for this latest record,
Long Distance. Much has happened for this band in the
meantime. Durand and Chase had a child. The studio they were
recording in burned down, taking everything with it. Schlesinger
worked on the Wayne project, and produced other records. All
these things have helped Ivy hone their craft even further,
creating another solid record of beautifully emotion packed
numbers that still retain the fun that we fans have come to
expect. Long Distance is not a copycat record of Apartment
Life, though. The songs show a bit of maturity of a band
that has held together through all the changes and growing
pains of life. The record contains less overt pop tunes then
its predecessor, but the soul and feeling that brought them
underground darling status still remains intact.
The record opens up with the pastoral tones of "Undertow."
You’ll find the characteristic Ivy floating groove layered
with a lilting guitar refrain. Durand’s vocals have aged like
a fine wine, allowing all the subtle textures of her delivery
come into their own. It’s wonderful to think about the progression
of Durand’s voice…she had never sung until Chase persuaded
her to sing for his Ivy project. Her smooth French accent
adds that sultry angle that us romantics find so swooning.
When she sings you can’t fight the undertow, you agree,
and you don’t care. You let the song swallow you up…oh, how
I’ve missed this band! "Disappointed" brings up
the tempo and the pop a touch, but it doesn’t reach the plateau
that prior tunes like "No Guarantee" or "I
Get The Message" did. But that’s okay. The muted leading
guitar line and slight keyboard infections make up for it.
You will, though, have it stick in your head as much as their
"poppier" songs. If you’re looking for a "Get
Out Of The City" or "Don’t Believe A Word"
type of tune, look no further than "Lucy Doesn’t Love
You." The jangly guitar passage is punctuated by the
re-introduction of horns…you know, those almost Sixties-esque
horns that used to slip into pop tunes. Definitely the jumpiest
tune on the album. Another uptempo song, "Blame It On
Yourself," is brilliantly lit by with a "happy"
guitar and an almost Peter Hook styled bass pattern.
Durand’s voice smiles on this one, aiding the airy "drive
along the coast with the top down" dreamscape. Captivating
and escapist tunes like "Edge Of The Ocean" and
"Hideaway" are the norm on the record. "Hideaway"
features Durand’s sensually emotive vocals soaring and teasing
you along the chorus, coupled with a comfortingly lush use
of song structure. That’s the strength of the band…their ability
to wash over you and ease the mind, bringing on a wonderfully
erotic state of euphoria from deep within the notes.
You’ll notice more keyboard on this record. Besides the colorings
on "Disappointed", songs like "While We’re
In Love" and "Let’s Stay Inside" use the keyboard
to fill out the sound more than ever before, adding to the
comforting ethereal grooviness. "While We’re…" employs
a swirling background with the keys to augment the almost
Bread-esque guitar leads. Durand’s tale of the darker
side of being in love (i.e.: the bad things that happen in
a relationship, no matter how good it can be) almost slips
by you in the beautiful melange of sound. "Inside"
accents the acoustic guitar, but drips the sleepy tale with
wistful keyboard and a touch more of those tasteful horns.
Yes, Ms. Durand…I’d stay inside with you too. Friend and Ivy
aficionado James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) appears
on "Midnight Sun". (Remember, he appeared on two
Apartment Life tunes.) This very Ivy number welcomes
violin and copious amounts of tactfully placed organ to achieve
its goals, and does so quite effortlessly. "One More
Last Kiss" snakes along with strategically placed guitar
passages and a sweeping chorus that makes Durand’s silky reading
of the longing lyrics touch your soul. The tune that takes
the furthest departure from their tried and true practice
is "Worry About You", which introduces some scant
Portishead styled ethereal-dub characteristics. The
song dips into that style occasionally while still keeping
the Ivy identity, using the elements discretely within their
traditional framework. The record is topped off by a rendition
of the Blow Monkey’s eighties pop classic, "Digging
Your Scene." Durand’s treatment seems so natural…if you
didn’t know the original, you’d think it was written with
her vocals in mind.
Long Distance has definitely been worth the wait.
It’s escapist and all encompassing sound makes it a rival
of "best of artist" picks. While not as blatantly
poppy, Long Distance continues to dwell on what makes
this band so captivating in the first place…lush melodies,
sultry vocals, and enough dreaminess to achieve what music
is really all about…escapism. Need an afternoon break from
the grind? Having that "special someone" over for
dinner? Want a mature sound that’s still conducive to a late
night "smoke-out", look no further than Long
- tom topkoff
- Edge Of The Ocean
- Blame It On Yourself
- While We’re In Love
- Lucy Doesn’t Love You
- Worry About You
- Let’s Stay Inside
- Midnight Sun
- I Think Of You
- One More Last Kiss
- Digging Your Scene
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