Leaving the noisy terrain of the Test Icicles behind for the more relaxed territory of the singer/songwriter didn't exactly mellow Dev Hynes. For sure, the sound of his new project, Lightspeed Champion, is softer, with violins, pedal steel, and tender female vocal harmonies (sung by London folk singer Emmy the Great) among other traditional singer/songwriter favorites providing the cottony backing. Recording in Omaha with Mike Mogis (who's run the boards for loads of indie rockers, most notably Bright Eyes) and using a conglomeration of musicians from Tilly and the Wall, the Good Life, and the Faint, it would be hard to come up with a sound that didn't conjure up Bright Eyes and their ilk. It's a rich and cinematic sound with plenty of lovely playing and deft arrangements, made more listenable by Hynes' pleasant melodies. So the sound is softer and the melodies are nice, but Hynes lyrics speak of turmoil and struggle. Indeed, Hynes is not a happy camper. Licking open wounds, being sick in other people's mouths, scratching out eyes, stapling down eyes, being bathed in cold sweat, and shaking with tension are just some of the happy topics Hynes touches on. He generally sounds miserable and depressed as hell; sometimes angry ("Devil Tricks for a Bitch"), sometimes snarky and mean ("Let the Bitches Die"), sometimes just plain morose ("All to Shit"). The disconnect between the gentle and welcoming music and the tense, off-putting lyrics can be a bit much and Hynes is only too aware of this, seeming to take perverse pleasure in going as far as he can lyrically. This underlying sense of humor is one of the saving graces of the record; another is the number of really good songs that don't worry about being "difficult" and reach for real emotions. The melancholy tale of missed love connections "Everyone I Know Is Listening to Crunk" is one of these; "No Surprise" is another. Overall though, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is a bit of a slog to get through. Maybe amping up the music to match the tone of the lyrics might have given the record the kick it needed; perhaps cutting back on the lyrical excess would have been the fix. Whatever the case may be, what's left is a record with some promise but too many flaws to be truly enjoyable.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra