Great Lakes' third album, 2006's Diamond Times, shows a remarkable amount of growth for the duo of Dan Donahue and Ben Crum. Their last record, 2002's The Distance Between, showed a band seemingly out of ideas, seeing as it was made up half of covers and a batch of songs very similar to those on their debut. In the four years since, they have taken a large step away from the kitchen-sink psych of the Elephant 6 scene in which they were firmly planted. On Diamond Times, they sound more like a classic rock band than a bedroom pop one, as the songs are bolstered by honking saxes, pedal steel, barroom pianos, loads of vocal harmonies, and muscular electric guitar lines. Add this to the decidedly more confident lead vocals, and the result is a much richer sound than one might expect from the group, given their track record (or from a look at the list of musicians who contributed to the album, including as it does members of the Essex Green, Of Montreal, the Late BP Helium, and the Ladybug Transistor). In addition to the bulked-up and more sophisticated sound, there is a deeper sense of emotion and feeling to the album. From gently rollicking Band-influenced tunes like "The Pinks and the Purples" and "Shakey Faith" to new wave rockers like "Farther," and from midtempo soft rock tunes like "Diamond Nights" to windswept and heartfelt ballads like "Precious and Reckless," this is as powerful and hooky an album as anyone related to E6 has released. It doesn't sound like kids mucking around making goofy pop songs anymore; it sounds like important songs about real things. Not that goofy pop songs are bad. Far from it. It's just that there are always young bands coming along to fill that need. When bands can progress, mature, and still sound as great as Great Lakes do on Diamond Times, that's something to celebrate. This is an amazing comeback that, along with the Essex Green's Cannibal Sea and Of Montreal's Satanic Panic in the Attic, shows that long after the Elephant 6 scene lost its buzz, some of the bands involved are putting out their best work.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra