The current state-of-mind empowering Lake Street Dive, perhaps the boldest pure pop enterprise to hit the airwaves in the last decade, is summed up in the lead-off tune to its invigorating new album, “Free Yourself Up.”
The song’s title is a tip-off of what’s to come: “Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts.” It’s a love song that’s unapologetically not about love, but rather a yearning for companionship to serve as a “human shield” against serious inner unrest.
“I don’t wanna get caught in the current of my mind,” sings turbo-charged vocalist Rachael Price from a tune penned by bassist Bridget Kearney. The music matches the mood, too. It’s darker, deeper and more rockish in spots, but retains all of the elements — the soaring vocals, hooks and cross generational pop inspirations — that made Lake Street Dive such a musical oasis when it broke through internationally with “Bad Self Portraits” in 2014.
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Growth spurts are evident throughout the 10 songs on “Free Yourself Up,” from the hints of political discourse that color but hardly control the music to the addition of the band’s touring keyboardist and vocalist Akie Bermiss as a de facto fifth member to flesh out the band’s regally full sound to arrangements that toughen Lake Street Dive’s musical landscapes as much as the lyrical pathways.
All of this hits a peak on “Dude.” Penned by guitarist/trumpeter Mike Olson and Kearney, it outlines the story of a woman who yearns for a level of camaraderie her partner enjoys with the guys — in other words, a romance bolstered by friendship. It’s humorous to a degree (“We used to kick it like Joe and Obama, now you just leave me at home playing mama”) but the underlying tension is inescapable. Add to that an arrangement that opens with brash power chords and concludes with a hearty jam led by a wordless, siren-like wail from Price and a ragged trumpet reveille from Olson and you have a glorious, living snapshot of the present day Lake Street Dive in action.
The sense of growth and independence is also reflected in the fact the band produced itself on “Free Yourself Up” with help from engineer Dan Knobler. That’s quite a shift given that Americana maestro Dave Cobb handled production duties on the preceding album, 2016’s “Side Pony.” While such a level of self-reliance was likely instilled in the band already, given its early years as an eager indie unit from Boston, the current sense of confidence and control doesn’t leave the past behind.
The easy pop stride of “Shame, Shame, Shame,” the lyrical assuredness of “Good Kiser” and the exquisitely torchy cast to “Musta Been Something” that enhances the gorgeous slo-mo luster of Price’s singing remind us of Lake Street Dive’s inherent pop smarts. Sure, the band is moving on to rougher waters, but it’s also arming itself with pop music’s greatest vibes for the trip.