Lostboycrow has always felt more than a simple musical identity, but a source for greater interpretation further than an artist moniker can surmise. Something more akin to a journey, a shared space, a state of home, which might be the reason why like-minded souls have latched on so tightly to the artist’s music. These are stories that feel universal as much as they are an expression of how their writer sees and experiences the world. They explore, travel and romanticize the emotions of humanity and the profound poeticisms of living. In January 2021, Lostboycrow released a new collection of songs named Valleyheart, an eight track roadmap that marks a new era shot with sunshine and the rapture of falling for another.
What is now a complete body of work, as Valleyheart, was initially introduced piece by piece as individual singles during 2020, the anticipation had been rolling since August and was capped off with the release of the full EP arriving early 2021. Hearing the tracks as standalone singles interpreted the story of Valleyheart one-dimensionally, without access to the full picture it was a lovely bunch of tunes working at the caliber we’ve come to expect of Lostboycrow, but it was missing vital pieces of the story arc. Which, thankfully, we can now explore. And what an exceptional adventure it is.
The story starts with an epilogue, setting the scene and preempting where we’re about to go — a tale of rugged enchantment, where boy meets girl and obsession unfurls. There’s immediately a touch of the nostalgic as the intro plays out, delivered as if passed through a distorted old radio, the fizz of 1950s America feels apt here. Listen closer and a bell is chiming in the distance, a first thought, ‘Maybe it’s a church bell?‘ but with further questioning I believe it’s the ringing of time, with the whole collection centered around summertime it would be the appropriate response. I ask this to you, reader: What do you hear? How do you interpret this motif? Then, without a moment’s notice, ‘Valleyheart‘ bleeds in in full colour just like the daydream it refers to, the title track wraps its soaring arms around sentimental charm and never lets go. It’s blurry indie pop at its best.
Valleyheart taps into a deeper, more intimate part of Lostboycrow’s songwriting, the genesis of which started with Santa Fe, his first full-length album release, yet it is arguable to spot the first ripples emanating as far back as the conception of Traveler, but isn’t that just the journey an artist takes throughout a career? The trajectory turns clearer as each new piece in the puzzle is revealed, and with these last three projects Lostboycrow has cemented his status as a reliable storyteller, one that takes great pride in the inward journey and isn’t too fussed with wider trends or categorization. The story leads the way, and that’s possibly why the music is so fluid and interwoven.
While parallels can be made between the previous album and this EP, Santa Fe‘s approach aligns, at points, with Valleyheart‘s essence and core themes, in that both are deeply introspective and find focus through a yearning to connect, the main evolution, though, lies in the musicality: Valleyheart leans in to the analogue surf grooves which Santa Fe detailed in some depth yet at that time emphasis still remained strongly placed in digital and electronics. And this is just another reason why Valleyheart is so effective, it wears its influences upfront for all to see, there’s no pretense, just good feeling and earnest heart. It’s a band-y record, full of collaboration and warmth, and while Lostboycrow’s music is never shy of collaboration, this time it feels different; there’s a rawness to the sonics and the creative vision feels fully actualized, and as close to Lostboycrow’s live show as could possibly be achieved. In all senses, Valleyheart is the dream record.
The vocal takes on the record are particularly winsome as well, Chris Blair has the kind of classic croon that never goes out of fashion, moving between a sonorous, soulful tenor into velvety lows and handsome highs of melody-soaked swoon with call-and-response hooks laced in for fun. It’s a perfect re-casting of the indie band trope, emo will never go out of style and classic pop is its longtime lover.
Throughout its runtime it is highly impossible to spot a dull moment or pinpoint a clear favourite, each track bears its own identity yet is as cohesively significant to the whole as its fellow neighbour. ‘Strawberry Sunscreen‘ dances a modern take on doo wop-style romance, swapping out the vocal group harmonies for instrumental symmetry and a heap of engaging melody lines. ‘November Sleep‘ casts a widescreen glow over a soundtrack that embodies a cinematic road trip singalong, it also features a minute-plus fade out instrumental jam that is as close to heavenly as an ice cold drink on a hot day. ‘Oceans and Roads‘ drops down the tempo and sets out on a ballad-like warble, it is a stunning moment almost immediately definitive of a classic. ‘The World’s Always Been Ending‘ closes the collection and grants the ultimate summing up for this body of work, a distilling of hazy but bright melody among lyrical sentiments that capture everything about modern loneliness with the acute ache of disenchantment in tow.
Valleyheart is full of little escapes, and in a time where populations of people are removed from socializing and are unable to feel closeness like a ‘normal’ time would allow, Lostboycrow’s cosy sentimentality acts as an ideal hideaway from the lonely blues of pandemic living. It offers a getaway vehicle to a place of almost inhabitable fantasy, a dreamland of hopeful alternatives and maybe the most treasured aspect of the whole ride… a buddy to share the journey with.
Valleyheart is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.
Photo Credit: Diana Mantis