Lomelda Searches For Self On Tender, Knotty New Album
For her fifth album as Lomelda, songwriter Hannah Read makes it a truly self-titled effort and her best album to date. Hannah embraces the range of musical and emotional ground that Lomelda has covered from folk confessionals to gnarled indie rock, diaristic stream-of-consciousness to country-tinged bedroom pop as she wanders through a set of songs that search for a place to ground oneself.
Read began the project in Silsbee, Texas and soon gained recognition for a tender and unassuming sound that fit in well with the lo-fi rooted contemporaries (Frankie Cosmos, Florist) she soon called labelmates after joining Double Double Whammy. Lomelda continued to gain recognition for a pliant approach that grew sturdy and larger on 2017’s excellent Thx and then drew further back into intimacy for 2019’s miniature album M for Empathy. Throughout, Read has maintained a warmth and vulnerability that make her songs charming and welcoming, at times melancholy or fragile but never overbearingly so.
With Hannah, Read—joined by brother Tommy who played on, mixed, mastered, and co-produced the album under the name of his Lazybones Studio—makes a personal and self-reflective body of work. Four of the album’s 14 tracks reference either Hannah or Lomelda in their lyrics or title and “Tommy Dread” refers to her brother. Oftentimes playing at slow tempos with melodies that seem to stretch out and meander, it’s an album that searches for identity and personal meaning.
“Kisses” opens with one of the more beautiful arrangements, a woozy synth joining shimmering 12-string acoustic guitar for a touching tale of love. Read favors spacious songwriting that lets individual sounds show off their full beauty and a few lyrics hold greater meaning. “It’s Lomelda” makes full use of that with a few lines about favorite musicians (Low, Yo La Tengo, The Innocence Mission, Frank Ocean, and Frankie Cosmos) making up the bulk of the song in a way that seems to hope these artists might become definitions of the self.
The following track, “Stranger Sat By Me,” takes a tender piano tune of anxiety that spins out into mutating synths and guitar feedback, but in strokes rather than giant waves, not totally distant from something the previously mentioned Frank Ocean, or maybe Bon Iver, might conjure up in the studio.
Read also leans into complex and knotted rhythms on Hannah. Lead single “Wonder” introduces the challenge gently with a discretely obtuse 11/4 time signature hiding behind the seemingly sing-a-long repetition of “when you get it give it all you got you said.” The intricate rhythms become more obvious on “Reach” as they curl and twist while Read sings of being “so confused who I have been who I haven’t.”
“Tommy Dread,” which comes with its own syncopations behind a seemingly simple beat, calls back to previous tracks “Big Shot” and “Wonder” in its lyrics. That’s a theme throughout the album that emphasizes the active nature of these songs. On Hannah, Read repeatedly returns to ideas—the phrase “light like kisses,” repeated in opposing contexts on “Kisses” and “Polyurethane,” is another notable example—as she wanders, searching for meaning. “Hannah Sun” lists off locations like a tour flyer, though none seem to satisfy. “Big Shot” documents the wrong place at the wrong time (“you blew it / where were you?”).
Hannah solidifies Lomelda’s best qualities even as Read searches for who she might be. On closing track “Hannah Please,” one of the album’s softest songs, she gives an idea: “swear I try / I’ll be sky / somehow.”