There is a moment on Sides, the new album from Richmond, Virginia-based duo Lean
Year, in which a hospital room floor is filled with white chrysanthemums. This imagery,
based on an opiate-induced hallucination experienced by vocalist Emilie Rex's mother
as she recovered from surgery, is a perfect encapsulation of the band's second album:
dreamlike and beautiful, yet burdened with cold, stark reality. Sides is a harrowing
journey through realms of grief and memory, a meditation woven into a tapestry of synth
pads, woodwinds, and Rex's instantly recognizable voice.
Sides-produced by Alverson alongside Erik Hall (In Tall Buildings) and featuring contributions from Elliot Bergman (Nomo, Wild Belle) and Joseph Shabason (Destroyer, The
War on Drugs)-has a distinctly cinematic quality, perhaps due in part to Alverson's other
career.Moments of jazz, slowcore, and dirgelike R&B find their way into the sorrowful,
ambient suite, lulling the listener into a state of calm while the lyrics speak of ghosts,
childhood, and mortality. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, Sides succeeds in
mastering a balancing act between pathos and pop. Each song is indelible and haunting, with melodies that have the kind of broad appeal reminiscent of Karen Dalton,
Aldous Harding, and FKA twigs.