Photographs [EP]

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Right away there is something inherently likable about Lakes, the new project headed by ex-Watashi Wa frontman Seth Alan Roberts. A captivating singer and skillful songwriter, the Photographs EP incorporates obvious influences like the Police (listen to the title cut to remove any doubts) into five tracks of light percussion, gentle acoustics, and gleaming vocals to create the perfect soundtrack for a leisurely walk outdoors under bright sunshine with a cool breeze. Comparisons to Copeland would be relevant (vocalist Aaron Marsh even contributes vocals to "Photographs"), but Lakes is a more buoyant and sunny sounding crew. Roberts is a strong singer, unassuming enough in his delivery that the songs of hope and love -- with minor nods to a higher power -- come off more earnestly heartfelt than purely self-righteous. His voice is the emotional backbone of Lakes, without which they'd be just another indie rock act with especially pretty music. For secular and non-secular fans alike, "Indian Lover" is both tender and stirring, while "Love or Gain" inspires with silky smooth assertions of faith, but not blind faith, just used as Roberts' own point of reference for the state of the humanity ("I learned to pray with my eyes closed/but I never thought that meant turning blindly to grace/and I'd rather see when the sun sets/and open my eyes to a world full of pain"). And with the bright sunshine of "White Flag" finishing off the relatively brief set -- MxPx's Mike Herrera contributing much better backing vocals than one might initially expect -- Photographs is both a wonderful listen and fantastic next step for the talented Roberts.

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