Upon their emergence in the early 2000s, Los Angeles-based Lavender Diamond were immediately lumped into the "New Weird America" movement that included warped indie folkies like Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and Vetiver, among many others. The band, based around the creative force of bandleader Becky Stark, wasn't quite all the way weird, folk, feral, or drugged-out enough to fit into the confines of the New Weird ghetto, but their achingly positive songs soared with childlike simplicity and a crushingly beautiful straightforwardness in Stark's lyrics and lush vocals. Maybe the nakedness of the songs weirded people out enough, and not offering enough of a context or a gimmick to fit in with the Sufjan Stevenses or Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs of that particular moment in time, Lavender Diamond were shuffled off to sit with the weird kids at the freak folk table. Returning after a five-year space between records with Incorruptible Heart, all the elements of Stark and company's uniquely direct sound have been brought into higher definition, still relying on both playfulness and open-hearted honesty in the songwriting, but bringing with it a refined sophistication absent on earlier work. Songs like the piano-driven "Forgive" and "Oh My Beautiful World" with its update on girl group sounds bring Stark's voice into the forefront, as usual, but here they bear a sadness or world-weary understanding that was missing in the band's more naïve songs. Production was handled by OK Go's Damian Kulash Jr. and Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann, and it's apparent from signature blown-out drum sounds and a combination of dazzlingly psychedelic yet crystal-clear touches. While being relatively spare, Incorruptible Heart sounds huge. "Light My Way" flirts with electro-pop, but sounds a little out of place next to more stripped-down songs. M. Ward shows up to duet on the whimsically upbeat "Perfect Love," which may be a little too giggly and cute for its own good in comparison to the rest of the album, which comes off in turns as mysterious as some of Kate Bush's moments of storminess or as somber as Nick Drake's early orchestral pop bummers. Album opener "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now" sets the scene of the album with its gorgeously simple electric piano and melancholic ripples of delayed percussion and pulsing electronics bounding like rocky waves beneath Stark's voice. Lavender Diamond still aren't weird enough for their wild-eyed brethren, but maybe a little too weird (or more likely not quite disposable enough) for Target commercials. Incorruptible Heart exists, much as the band does, in an in-between space that's not easy to pigeonhole. There's always been an inexplicable brightness to Stark's songs, and here that light is near blinding, even when the songs themselves aren't particularly happy. This long-labored album is a thoughtful and contemplative breed of off-kilter pop that becomes both more interesting and increasingly complex with repeat listening.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas