Album Review: Lightspeed Champion, ‘Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You’

Dev Hynes, recording under his pseudonym Lightspeed Champion, produced one of 2008’s most memorable debuts in ‘Falling Off The Lavender Bridge’, and his sophomore album ‘Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You’, due out February 16th via Domino was one of my most anticipated albums of 2010.

Hynes has always been a law unto himself. He rose to prominence at a mere 19 years old as part of the very unique Test Icicles, and has proceeded to release new music at a staggering rate, under various names, and often for free. As Lightspeed Champion he has produced some truly memorable music, and he was under a lot of pressure to reproduce this same music for ‘Life…’.

What he has done, being Dev Hynes, is something completely different.

‘Life…’ is heavily influenced by Dev’s own take on classical music, in an almost a self-depreciating, ironic way. The album’s name in itself is a bit ironic, because although there is certainly joy to be found in ‘Life If Sweet! Nice To Meet You’, there is also a darker self-awareness and introversion. Case in point is Dev noting that it “Hurts to be the one who’s always feeling sad”, before some kind of brutish choir chant in response “Oh just stop complaining” on The Big Guns Of Highsmith.

This also happens to be one of the album’s best tracks. Such honest and contrasting lyrics are backed by a frankly beautiful piano riff. In fact it’s such a delicate song in parts that it is hard to imagine it being written by the same person who penned a song titled All My Friends Are Listening To Crunk. The song is barely over four minutes long, but yet it seems to contain so much more than that, with changes in pace and instrumentation aplenty.

Although I can safely say that The Big Guns Of Highsmith is my favourite track on the album, I’m a bit lost after that. For ‘Life…’ is a record absolutely packed with hits. There is virtually no filler, including the brief instrumental interludes which justify their place in the album by defining the separate sections of the record.

There’s just so much to like.

The gently-plucked, almost country-western beauty of Sweetheart that breaks into a fully fledged love ballad: “Sweetheart, I’ll give you all… I won’t act shy, I’m over that stage of my life”, a sentiment that is perhaps reasserted in the title of ‘Nice To Meet You’. The most unexpected shredding guitar solo of all time on Marlene, the album’s first single. The song and dance, orchestral, and upbeat number that is Faculty Of Fears.

The rather remarkable piano in the mysteriously named Etude Op. 3 “Goodnight Michalek”. The crooning Middle Of The Dark, which builds magnificently a features just a few strummed guitar chords that perfectly accentuate Dev’s refrain of: “Say you love me. I will oblige”.

And really, I’m just getting started. There is so much to explore in ‘Life…’ that I can easily imagine it being on high rotation for months to come. Yes, it is introverted and self-aware, but Dev explores his own failings and strengths with humour and wit. Perhaps, in the end, the message of this record is that in order to fully appreciate how sweet life is, you have to be aware of your own character but yet not consumed by it.

Stylistically, it is very different to ‘Falling OffThe Lavender Bridge’, yet it is unmistakably a Dev Hynes record. It has achieved the ultimate goal of a sophomore album in that it is familiar yet different.

This is a unique record, just like the man who created it. And, just like Dev, it’s pretty brilliant.

Album Rated: 8/10

Listen To: The Guns Of Highsmith, Sweetheart, Faculty Of Fears, Marlene, Middle Of The Dark

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