- Luminous Crush, Live From Lonely Highway Studio
From the decidedly un-tropical locale of Jamaica, Vt., come Luminous Crush, proud "purveyors of dream pop since 2015," as they note on their Facebook page. On their second LP, however, they step away from the dream a little and break out the acoustic guitars for a pseudo-live album. The songs on Live From Lonely Highway Studio were performed in a single take with partners Ben Campbell and Laura Molinelli, as well as bassist Christian Heins.
Campbell has been a known commodity in the Green Mountains for years. He played the lead role of Orpheus in fellow Middlebury College chum Anaïs Mitchell's original 2006 production of her 2019 Tony Award-winning folk opera Hadestown. And he's released multitudes of records as Saint Albums, as well as under his own name and in various other configurations — most via his now-dormant label Lonely Hiway.
Campbell and Molinelli, a musical force in New England in her own right, joined forces for the first Luminous Crush LP in 2016, Lumina. The duo crafted a lush, warm sound full of synthesizers and subtle, skittering beats — and, most importantly, a collection of clever songs.
Whether going acoustic and live is a bold move in the Vermont music scene is debatable. While ditching a sound from a well-received debut might seem a bit risky, embracing folk isn't going to set off any alarms, either.
Perhaps Luminous Crush anticipated this. The album may be live, but the postproduction sheen of reverb coats what is a thoroughly engrossing record. And as pristine as the guitars sound, Campbell and Molinelli's voices are what lend Live From Lonely Highway Studio such gravitas.
The pair trades leads and forms harmonies around each other like two birds in synchronized flight. "Friends so bright and shiny / They always welcome me so kindly / Even though they know that I'll go away / Singing, you'll always have a place to stay," the two coo on "Come Along."
The band couldn't have made a more perfect soundtrack for the arrival of autumn. Something about the record evokes an early morning field, fog obscuring the foliage before the sun shows up to burn it away. "Everywhere," a song of longing for love amid the chaos of life, has a gentle, almost-but-not-quite melancholy tone perfect for drinking morning coffee, staring at the woods or watching your breath frost.
As strong as Live From Lonely Highway Studio is, it's hard not to miss the band's earlier, more experimental sounds. For those who loved Lumina, there might be a desire for warm synths, the odd beat drop and vocals pulled at the seams. Luminous Crush is too dreamy a name to abandon dream pop, for one. (Seriously, what a perfect band name.) Campbell and Molinelli are too good at making it, for another.
None of that changes what a good listen this record is, though. So, while the leaves change colors all around and the air grows crisp, enjoy the rustic beauty these two songwriters have presented. For if Luminous Crush have shown us anything with their first two records, it's that they don't repeat themselves.
Live From Lonely Highway Studio is available at luminouscrush.bandcamp.com.