Philly’s lylyly are Refreshingly Honest on Self-Titled Record
60s nostalgia, intimate folk ballads, and hard-hitting rock anthems make this one of the most dynamic and interesting records I’ve heard in 2020.
Few things in this modern, appearances-driven world feel genuine and earnest. And in indie rock scenes in particular, there tends to be a lot of groupthink. Bands attempt to fit themselves into a slacker, “too cool for school” vibe that often leaves something to be desired. Philadelphia’s lylyly does not have that problem on their newest self-titled record. Dripping with sincerity, lylyly is the honest record that we needed to close out this year.
Described as post-pop on their Bandcamp page, lylyly switch from urgent rock and roll to introspective folk with masterful ease. Led by songwriter and vocalist Emily Mineo, the group varies their style and performance from song to song. The opener, “Undead,” is a shuffling, upbeat tune with a melody that will swirl around your head for days. Then, the second song “Wish” takes an unexpected turn. It’s a quiet, folk ballad with an unassuming melody equally as powerful and catchy. After these first two songs, lylyly leave the listener wondering what will happen next.
“I Thought That I Was Dying (Same As Last Week)” resembles 60s pop with equal doses of The Carpenters and The Ronettes. In the chorus, Mineo sings, “Everyday my heart is on fire / Every step I take I trip another wire / I thought that I was dying, I thought that I was dead.” And while the song feels as though it’s describing a particular moment, the message is universal. As the song quiets into the bridge, Mineo also delivers the most heartfelt vocal delivery I have heard from an artist this year. It’s a performance that will tug at your heartstrings in an extremely cathartic way.
Truly great bands know how to play with their listeners’ expectations. “Home” starts off as a quiet, ambient keyboard song then explodes into a cranked-up, anthemic rocker. It’s a genius move that I did not see coming as I was listening for the first time. “No Sleep” starts off with a Green Day-esque bassline, and descends into a post-punk groove. And finally, album closer “Shell” features a ukulele and another impressive vocal melody from Mineo.
There’s a lot here to love. 60s nostalgia, intimate folk ballads, and hard-hitting rock anthems make this one of the most dynamic and interesting records I’ve heard in 2020. For a lot of artists in indie rock scenes, vocals aren’t the main attraction. Often, bands try to bury the vocals beneath layers of reverb or echo. But, Mineo’s vocal performances are truly the highlight of this record. As this strange and trying year draws to a close, this record feels like an emotional release. Anger, fear, sadness, joy – they’re all here on lylyly. Do yourself a favor and listen to this record as soon as possible. You’ll be surprised by how much you needed to hear these songs.
Stream the record below, and read our exclusive interview with lylyly!
1. This is a very dynamic record, and that’s often very hard to pull off. Did you set out to make that kind of record, or did it just happen naturally?
It happened naturally. At the beginning, we went through thirty songs I had written and chose the best. We ended up recording eight songs (Although, only seven are on the final record.) Once we made the demos, the songs seemed split in half between their production styles and needs, so I approached two different producers that I admired, each to work with us separately on four songs.
Michael Cumming engineered/mixed/co-produced “Undead,” “I Thought That I Was Dying,” “No Sleep,” and “Made of Ice.” (Although we love how Michael produced “Made of Ice,” ultimately its lyrical content didn’t belong on the record).
Robbie Simmons engineered/mixed/co-produced and added some instrumentals to “Home,” “Lifeboats,” “Shell,” and “Wish.” “Wish” was the song we added last to the lineup.
At first, we thought we might release the songs on two EPs. I was even wary about Michael and Robbie hearing what each was working on with us at the beginning of the process. We wanted each song to get whatever treatment it needed individually to be the best version of itself, regardless of how it fit with any other song. So we tried to keep the two halves separate for a while to keep away any subconscious inclination to record these songs to sound like a whole album.
I didn’t know if they would all work together, but that hadn’t been my objective. I just knew these songs needed to exist. However, not long into the recording process it became clear that all the songs together were a complete thought and should be released as an album.
2. What were you listening to when you wrote these songs?
I listened almost exclusively to podcasts and audiobooks and Kendrick Lamar. I fall down rabbit holes following an artist from the beginning to the end of their discography and DAMN had just come out, so I was on a kick. Kendrick Lamar sounds different enough from what we were going for that it felt safe and still inspiring to listen to at the time. But overall, my thoughts were so consumed with our recording process that I couldn’t bear to listen to anyone else’s music. My body would become jittery and my thoughts would race and circle. It was like I was allergic to listening to music throughout the whole process. Not like just hearing music, but I love to listen to whole albums cover to cover multiple times, and to pick an artist and listen through their releases chronologically for a few weeks, and I just couldn’t do that while we were working on this album. So it was mostly all audiobooks and podcasts. As soon as we finished mixing all the songs, the fog lifted and I can enjoy listening again.
3. The recordings are all so distinct, and yet they fit together so well. Were they recorded at different times, or did you go into the studio and record them all together?
Some of them were recorded together. “Undead,” “I Thought That I Was Dying,” and “No Sleep,” were all live tracked in one day, with extras and vocals added later. Sophie Coran tracked the piano for “Lifeboats” on the same day the band tracked “Home.” And then we had a long string of “over dub” days, when we would work on just one song, adding whatever it needed. Depending on the song, we added other guitars, strings, electronics, piano, or horns, etc
4. The vocal performances on this record are really powerful. Who are some of your vocal influences?
During the recording process, I worked with the talented songwriter and vocalist, Jakeya. She is a huge inspiration and influence on my ability to bring my vision for the vocals into life.
When I discovered her at age eighteen, Regina Spector became a big influence that has stuck with me. Her fearlessness with her voice, unafraid to make odd sounds and affect her tone differently to fit each moment in a song, really impacted me and opened my mind to how vocals can support a song’s intention.
5. What’s next for lylyly?
We’re currently working with a few artists to create music videos for more of the tracks on the album. And we have an intention to release a few singles this year. Regarding recording, it’s difficult to plan anything at this time given the pandemic and all its safety and logistical challenges. So we’ll do our best and adapt how we can. We look forward to what the new year will bring.