One of our most anticipated albums of the year (yes, we know it’s March) just came across our “desk” and after listening a good 50 times or so, we’re ready to hit you with some quick thoughts. The release is Wild Blood by Lovedrug – it can be best described as awesome. In all seriousness, the thoughts on this album are still kind of all over the place (especially given the fact that we’re still on something like a vacation), but we’ll do our best to voice ‘em for you. Lovedrug is a wonderful indie rock band fronted by vocalist Michael Shepard and the name was thought up by him. A love for music “dragged” (or “drug”) him back from film school. Which probablymakes it a drug. Maybe. We’re not really sure. But Shepard is the highlight of this band, to be sure.
His voice is rough and clean all at once, and that’s a statement you’ll understand once you hear it. It’s a clear and clear voice that rasps off with a whistle at the end, emphasizing ‘u’s and cracking through the ‘ue’ sounds. It’s got a wavering, meandering feel that at first seems out of place with the new musical direction, but it’s a great counter-balance to what is essentially a slightly edgier pop sound.
“Dinosaurs” has a great, great flow to it – one of the most easy-to-listen to tracks on the album, and a clear indicator of what you’re in store for. If you’re still on the fence between loving the lead singer and hating him, listen to this track to make your decision. “Anodyne” is a great track that clearly has roots in the band’s name “Lovedrug.” Instead of “drag”, however, they’re playing on actual drugs, with the line “I’ll be your drug,” among others. “We Were Owls” is a good gauge for the tone of the album – love, loss, hurt, and things of that nature.
Oh yes – that new musical direction? Gone are the dulcet, silky backgrounds in favor of a more fun sound that being embraced these days by Lovedrug’s target audience. Look to a band like fun. for a nudge in the right direction as to where this music is heading. In the end, it creates something that sounds functional, with each member of the band clearly getting better this time around at their chosen craft, but ultimately ends up less compelling than previous efforts.
Unfortunately, it’s the compelling nature of it all that brought us into this band, and it’s a shame to see a deeper sound on a more simplified plane as opposed to a more un-emphasized instrumentation, highlighted with the excellent vocals. The whole thing suffers from over-production, and in the end, the tracks sort of play into each other more often than naught. Even the vocals, when isolated, suffer from over-production, and do a lot to take away from Michael Shepard’s voice in the end, with multiple layering not working as well as a single track on its own.
That being said, it’s a more than pleasant experience, with highlights like the aforementioned “Dinosaurs” and “Permonition.” If you want an apt comparison in regards to a downward slope when it comes to “unleashing” Shepard and covering him up, listen to “She’s Disaster” from an EP in 2010 and then something like “Ladders” from Wild Blood. It’s a huge shift, and not a necessarily welcome one – doesn’t the track just sound loud and overpowering?
At any rate, perhaps you’re not as crazy about his voice as some are, and that might mean Wild Blood is Lovedrug’s best album to date, with strong alt rock overtones and a very sturdy pop base. It’s worth noting that the semi-shift in direction isn’t anything near selling out, just perhaps a poor decision in production – it’s something that is a “fan gripe” and something you should be able to get past. We most definitely did, over and over again. It’s a pleasant listen from start to finish and proves that Lovedrug is plenty alive. Also worth noting that many of the tracks appeared on EPs in slightly different form, so don’t expect everything to be bright and shiny new.