The Lowdown: Maybe it’s because Alex Lahey makes guitar-driven indie-pop marbled with observational wit and an occasionally sardonic delivery. Maybe it’s because she’s a 26-year-old music-school drop-out. Maybe it’s because she’s Australian. Whatever the reason, the terms “slacker” and “generational ennui” have been bandied about regarding the Melbourne-born musician’s work. Song-by-song, however, Lahey’s The Best of Luck Club is anything but meandering. On her sophomore full-length, Lahey confronts head-on the milestones and crises of young adulthood. In the process, she expands her sonic palate, and proves she’s a companionable voice and vision to be reckoned with.
The Good: Lahey traveled all the way to Nashville to begin work on Best of Luck and was inspired there by the unpretentious nature of dive bars. She says each track can be heard as the voice of a different patron of these not-so-lonely hearts’ clubs, which speaks to the album’s range. Lahey runs the gamut of emotional experiences and tactics for dealing with hard transitions: from flat-out punk anger to dizzying indie-rock fuzz and synth-pop blues.
Partnered with Grammy-winning producer Catherine Marks (Manchester Orchestra, Wolf Alice), Lahey lets loose her various influences — from The Cure to Bruce Springsteen to her own background as a saxophonist. Yet this collection feels cohesive, filtered through Lahey’s sharp-yet-tender lens. Album-opening burner “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore” announces the isolation of adulthood as the singer pursues professional and artistic dreams — and realizes the concerns of youth, if not fully in the rear view, have shifted significantly.
On “Am I Doing It Right?”, Lahey addresses the sacrifices and self-doubt of an independent artist making her mark: “Don’t say/ That I have nothing to prove/ I stay/ In every cheap hotel room.” Yet the self-doubt of the sing-along hook, “But am I doing it right/ when I make every wrong move?”, is shot through with an irresistible riff, revealing a foundational confidence that drives her forward.
Other songs reckon with cognitive behavioral therapy, the pleasures of stable love, and realizing heartache lingers because it’s all you have left of a relationship. Upbeat single about anxiety and over-work “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” features a hook that references The Mighty Ducks and might be the anthem of the self-care generation.
Lahey is often compared to Courtney Barnett due to her Antipodean origins, cleverness, and sometimes lackadaisical delivery. But here she seems closer in DNA to recent tour-mates Tegan and Sara: by turns gimlet-eyed and vulnerable, unafraid to delve into straight-up pop if it serves the song’s emotional core. What’s more, Lahey can achieve Paramore-level cathartic heights and could be poised for a HAIM-like crossover.
The Bad: “Misery Guts” gallops like a lost Dookie track, but the transition to upbeat buddy-ode “Isabella” could give the listener whiplash. It’s like falling through the floor of a mosh pit—and landing in a bed of cotton candy. “Isabella” ushers in the final third of the record, which sees Lahey tinkering more with electro-pop and even twee forms. By album closer “I Want To Live With You,” the sound is the Raveonettes soaked in blissful reverb. These are lovely songs, worthy of a listen—but it’s a big mood swing that doesn’t match the verve of the first half of the album where guitars loom large.
The Verdict: In the midst of a golden age of female indie rockers whose lyrics cut you to the quick as you’re cutting a rug, Lahey stands out for her versatility. With buoyant wit, she rolls with the changes and delivers a lucid, omnivorous perspective that’s all her own.
Essential Tracks: “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore”, “Am I Doing It Right?”, and “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself”