Lydia

This December: It's One More and I'm Free
(Hour Zero)

It's probably bad form to mention CD artwork before the music, sort of like extolling the virtues of a blind date's winning personality, but the dramatic Jason Oda graphics beg first-paragraph acknowledgement for totally syncing up to the emo-melancholia housed within this Gilbert band's powerful debut. There's a slacker goddess lounging with her mirror image on the front panel, while the other side finds a couple staring blankly at a pile of emptied booze bottles, all rendered in color-drained antique postcard browns that say "come to where the hurtin' is" before you even hear the first note. And from first to last, Lydia delivers the bad news unbearables with powerful restraint followed by abandon, while cellos, chiming guitars and ambient TV feeds fill up the space but keep it from feeling too cozy.

In keeping with the rigors of emo, lead singer Loren Brinton begins most numbers with a sleep-deprived drawl that eventually gives way to a confessional roar, while keyboardist/vocalist Maria Sais de Sicilia seconds every emotion with a deadpan chirp that brings trauma on the level of a poor urchin being sent to bed without supper. Fans of Jimmy Eat World's pre-MTV album Clarity will find plenty of earnest unburdening here, from nowhere better than the closing cuts: the acoustic winter scene of "A Camera Lens and Careful Days," and the hard-rocking, let's-just-hibernate-through-this-malaise closer anthem, "December." Buy this near-perfect album now and save it for the next cataclysmic day no one appreciates or understands you.

 
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