Much has changed in the four years since Lightning Love's debut, November Birthday. Singer/keyboardist Leah Diehl, her brother Aaron on drums and Ben Collins on guitar are still fresh-faced, but they're seasoned vets now. They've toured extensively, played for thousands and even reached the final round of a Billboard Magazine battle of the bands. They've outgrown their beginnings, and as a result, there's something slightly unsatisfying about the band's newest, Blonde Album. It's a little uneven, this second LP, because like most transition albums it's stuck between the past and the future.
Some of the songs on Blonde Album go back to their November Birthday days. Fans will be thrilled to have these older songs, since they've been loving them for years. But what used to be great songs are now just good – compared to the new stuff. On "Just Friends," piano lines rise and fall to match perfectly the roller-coaster "relationship" that Leah sings about. On "I Know," the band is in complete synchrony, pounding out notes in unison throughout the song, but at different levels of intensity, starting with a banging like a hard fist against a wall, then as soft as the nervous tapping of fingertips. "I'll Never Love No One Else" is totally unfair to anyone who has ever tried to write a love song. Leah plays simple Erik Satie-like chords, and sings words so tenderly that every single hair on your neck and arms is standing, which is the only kind of ovation the song can inspire because you're just left there, stunned at its beauty. How did she accomplish that? And what will Lightning Love accomplish when they leave phase one behind? The Blonde Album is not it yet. But it lets us know that it is not too far away. —SCOTT BRAGG
Worth a Listen: "I'll Never Love No One Else" and "I Know"