An unexpected but appreciated taste of raw humanity
Lo Tom has finally released their second album to date, LP2. For a band that formed solely out of a need to kick back and have fun making music, Lo Tom delivers a surprisingly empowering album true rock fans will adore. David Bazan (vocals, bass), Trey Many (drums), TW Walsh (guitar, synth) and Jason Martin (guitar) are the shining stars of Lo Tom, each with a storied musical history. Both Bazan and Walsh are known for their parts in Pedro the Lion, Jason Martin and Trey Many are better recognized as members of Starflyer 59 and Many is also a member of Velour 100. Though Lo Tom has collectively garnered a strong sense of technical expertise from their many years in music, it’s the dynamic between the members that makes the band so special. Interestingly, the members of Lo Tom have been playing music together since they were children, and naturally reunited to reinvigorate that same passionate enthusiasm they had for music as kids. Though the group had the humble goal of reuniting to simply have fun with sound again, they’ve expertly infused the feeling of childlike excitement into each track to produce a solid album.
Lo Tom almost has a punk rock feel, and there isn’t a single song absent of energy. Waves of percussion and heavy guitar riffs rock the listener from track to track, and though this cycle may be technically repetitive, it experientially leaves the listener invigorated. Particularly in “The Show,” the steady cymbal clashes and low tone forcefully strummed on the guitar are perfect for anyone who needs to get their energy out dancing around the house. “Start Payin’” features an addictive baseline and a couple synths add a charming edge, acting as an additional kick to the song.
Thankfully Lo Tom was careful to use the synths like a light seasoning in LP2, giving it a true classic alternative rock feel. The dynamic nature of the guitar is electrifying while the bass is a true standout on the album, perfectly pulling every element together. Bazan also heavily carries the band with his stellar vocals, which seem like an independent instrument harmonizing with the others. The instrumentals and vocals feel like two intentionally woven elements in the song, rather than two independent components blended together like an afterthought. Though Lo Tom had casual intentions, they knocked it out of the park when it came to composing LP2.
Although admittedly Lo Tom had no deep conceptual intentions with LP2— let alone their formation in general— the album was not remissed of authentic feeling. At times the lyrics themselves almost read like a stream of consciousness, whereby Bazan bears all his feelings while the instruments analogize his emotion in every beat. In “Don’t Look at Me,” Bazan pleads “Don’t look at me/ don’t look at me/ stop looking at me please/ I wanna jam/ I wanna sing/ but please, please please,/ don’t look at me.” Though it may seem simple enough, Bazan’s request may indicate a deeper nuance to LP2. He could be singing of how he feels in the moment, or perhaps he wants to lose the curious eyes that accompany the spotlight, but he was being honest and straightforward. In a time of cryptic, poetic and illusive lyrics, his bluntness is refreshingly human and relatable.
He continues to bear it all in “Outta Here,” singing, “At a tender age I learned to scrub my feelings/ Whenever they went against the grain/ I didn’t trust myself to not be taken captive/ I couldn’t hear my heart singing.” The lyricism evidently demonstrates that though this album was a fun undertaking for the band, they didn’t shy away from putting their raw emotions on display.
Each song on LP2 is akin to a brief chapter in an intimate diary. The listener gets an honest glimpse into the collective worldview of Lo Tom’s members, with nothing held back. The listener almost feels like a trusted member of the tight-knit band, invited to sit back, let their hair down and let the music take them away. Overall, Lo Tom delivered an unexpectedly smashing album reminding the world it’s okay to just be human.