I love a good solo project – in fact, a large number of my reviews or features have been individuals, either operating under their own name or a pseudonym (such as Adam Dodson or Soars). The message always seems to be similar: artists enjoy the freedom of operating on their own terms and at their own pace, without the constraints that sometimes come with working with others. Lumenette is a solo project with a little more. Whilst all tracks on debut album All Around My Head (bar one which is co-written) are written by Christine Byrd, the credits section notes a large number of musicians that have featured on the album, giving more of a band feel to the project. The payback for this is clear, with All Around My Head already one of my favourite releases of the year.
There is a clear energy and vibe to Lumenette that is evident right from the opening notes of All Around My Head – it appears the artist won’t be happy unless the listener feels they are being transported through time and space to a place of serene calm. Throughout the album, the reverb-coated vocals, delayed infused guitars and atmospheric swells, synths and strings blend together to create a perfect storm of tranquility. “Alaska”, “Deeper”, and “You Should See Me Now” highlight this in the opening stages of the album. There’s a comfort to be found in the formulaic approach to the writing, with enough subtle changes to keep things interesting (such as the gently strummed acoustic complemented by simple piano playing in the short “You Should See Me Now”). ‘My new fantasy/ s for you and me/To steal away/To some deserted place‘, sings Byrd on “Deeper” – it seems that she is intent on having anyone listening to All Around My Head join her.
I used to argue with friends that no band should be allowed to form until their bassist and drummer had listened to Interpol‘s Turn On The Bright Lights and fully appreciated the chemistry their rhythm section (sadly long broken up) had. The relationship that Lumenette has built between bass guitar, drums and programmed beats, though, has blown that argument out of the water. Songs like “Nobody” and “Once More” show just how effective this marriage is, with a solid foundation built on which the other instruments flourish. It feels as if Byrd has put just as much effort into these programmed beats as she has every other part of All Around My Head – this attention to detail and love of each track clear to see.
Although it appears the album is coming predominantly from a place of love, there are some deep cuts here too with some harsh (but probably necessary) words. ‘I’d rather have a broken heart than a cold one‘ is a personal favourite lyric; I’m sure many of us could find a reason to play “Wake Up”, or a person we want to share it with. Songs like “Mayflies” and “Blue” come with a recurring theme of darkness with the lyrics ‘I’m afraid of the dark‘ and ‘If I lose myself in the dark/Will you search for me?‘ These themes are in direct contrast to the feel of the still-uplifting music, which continues to provide comfort right up to its final moments.
As my first introduction to Lumenette, All Around My Head could do no better. Interestingly, it is an album I have wanted to revisit on numerous occasions despite the fact that I don’t have any massive stand out moments from it. Rather than individual songs that take hold of the listener, it is a record that is best listened to and enjoyed in its entirety to fully appreciate the feeling that it brings. As a debut album, it sets a great standard and there is clearly more than just the tracks here, as evidenced by the recent excellent collaboration with Hammock. I would happily listen to another 12 songs of a similar feel and quality, but I am already excited to see where Christine Byrd takes the project next.