Amid collaborations with the likes of Kim Gordon and Angel Olsen, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Lawrence Rothman quickly drew attention for a handful of early singles and live appearances before landing a record deal with Downtown Records/Interscope in 2015. He continued to work with a diverse group of notable musicians for his 2017 full-length debut, among them Olsen, Pino Palladino (the Who, John Mayer Trio), Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses), Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Carla Azar (Autolux), and solo artists Marissa Nadler and Kristin Kontrol (aka Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls). Titled The Book of Law, the album nevertheless presents a distinct voice, in both senses of the phrase. A personal album that reflects the songwriter's struggles with social alienation, relationships, drug use, and identity (songs are presented as different versions of himself he refers to as "alters"), it's also distinguished by Rothman's attention-grabbing deep baritone. His voice may elicit touchstones such as Leonard Cohen at first, but given a frequent setting of light, '80s-style synth pop here, Rick Astley may be more on point. The record was produced by Justin Raisen (Charli XCX, Santigold) along with Rothman's brother Yves. The Book of Law opens with the wistful piano ballad "Descend" ("Some things can't be fixed/That's all right, we'll go down together") before settling into slicker dance-pop productions that retain the yearning, affectionate tone of sparer tracks. That sense of longing is present even on songs like the relatively bright earworm "Your Kiss Tastes Like Dope" and the lusher dance-rock entry "Die Daily." Ultimately, listeners who can embrace the idiosyncrasies of Rothman's voice and the throwback production (don't miss the Kristin Kontrol track, "Jordan," for that niche Casio-and-saxophone sound) will find an intriguing if hit-and-miss set of underlying songs with strokes of classic Brill Building and sophisti-pop.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson