More instruments, longer songs, more problems
Empathy is a core component of Lomelda’s work; look no further than her last album’s title, M for Empathy, for proof of that. The most powerful moment on her fifth record, Hannah comes on “Stranger Sat By Me,” in which Lomelda sings about being so low and pathetic that she is calling someone “from all fours.” In the midst of her angst, a stranger comes to help her and asks if she is okay. It’s a direct, raw moment, yet after it, the song just goes on for two more minutes with no more lyrics, which is rather pretty and could work if it was the final moments of the record. Sadly it isn’t, as the listener then is faced with almost 15 more minutes of unengaging vocals, scattered lyrics and repetitive songs that do a disservice to welcome experiments with new guitar textures and other instruments.
Lomelda’s second album, 4E, consists only of squeaky acoustic guitars and precocious vocals that convey a woman strumming in her bedroom to herself. Even though the mix is far from dense and remains rather skeletal, she has steadily added more instruments and unique tones. Hannah certainly builds off of M for Empathy’s wider palette, except that record was 16 minutes long and did not wear out its welcome as Hannah does. The production is still detailed and well-balanced; the drum machines feel natural and pick up some real impact on “It’s Infinite,” the accents of piano and warping synth create some stunning ambiance on “Stranger Set By Me” and “Hannah Sun” and the variety of guitar tones is impressive, ranging from the morose, Ruston Kelly-esque “Big Shot” to the glittering folk-country of “Hannah Happiest” to the resonant crunch of “Reach.”
It hits the same highs as Julia Jacklin in incorporating country tones into a gauzy, indie framework. Sadly, unlike Jacklin, these tones never coalesce into a full song or even a tune worth remembering. The instrumental “Both Mode” had sone real promise with the deeper cymbal crashes, insistent lead acoustics and huge colossal rhythm guitar, yet it never feels like it gets out of gear before a weak acoustic coda that does not feel earned or built up to. The other instrumental, “Sing for Stranger,” goes for a similarly experimental vibe with a muffled yet blown-out guitar stomp before an outro sounds like a tape being melted and distorted a la Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs. Neither cut flows within the overall tracklist, and it’s not like the actual songs are more memorable beyond the tones.
Hannah is the real name of Lomelda, which was chosen to remove all the artifice and give the impression that she is talking to her true self. Such a technique does not work with her weak singing voice, and while the multi-tracking on “Polyurethane,” “Big Shot” and “Tommy Dread” are welcome and the strained delivery of “It’s Lomelda” and “Reach” works with the anguished, screeching gutiar leads, she largely remains an anonymous performer. The scattered, unstructured approach to writing is supposed to give the impression that she is reeling from a tragedy that shattered her world, the lyrics are her picking up the fragmented thoughts, and the repetition on “Hannah Happiest,” “Wonder” and “Tommy Dread” tries to coney her holding to one of these thoughts in the hopes that it provides some solace.
The problem is that on even when the lyrics themselves aren’t repetitive on “Kisses” and “Hannah Please,” the mood is already cyclical and monotonous so these moments don’t stand out and just blend into the recst of the record. Furtheremore, if the writing is this scant, one needs a visceral performer or impactful songs to sell it. When all she had was her acoustic guitar, the songs at least felt more intimate and fitting for her voice; as she adds more and more elements, her greatest strength fades away.