Lessons for Lovers

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On their first full-length album (or their first disc to run over 20 minutes, anyway), Lylas serves as a platform for lead singer/acoustic guitarist/lyricist Kyle Hamlett on a series of short songs (only one running over three minutes). The band works up engaging folk-pop arrangements, and Hamlett, positioning himself close to the microphone, sings in a light, unruffled voice that bears more than a slight resemblance to Ray Davies. Indeed, this is music imbued with the sound of 1966-1967 London made by a group of Nashville residents who have more than a passing familiarity with the Kinks' Face to Face and the Rolling Stones' Between the Buttons. Occasionally, as on "His Master's Merriment," for example, it take a minute or two to be certain one isn't listening to some long-lost Kinks outtake rather than a new band from Tennessee. Of course, the major difference is that Hamlett and company are not nearly as interested in conventional songcraft as the Kinks were; rarely do they deign to do anything as mundane as coming up with a hook or even a true chorus. And while Hamlett's delivery is off-hand, an examination of the small-print lyrics that fill three panels of the CD booklet reveals a rather ambiguous, if poetically reflective world view. The effect is reminiscent of the British stars the Beautiful South (like the Face to Face-era Kinks, an act that couldn't get arrested in the U.S.), whose pretty music is belied by their caustic lyrics.

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