The different shades of longing and desire that are woven through the songs on Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else constitute a whole world of broken dreams.
The energy for escape, for newness, for something other than the grinding daily reality of flaws and failures that forms the beating heart of Somewhere Else is a credit to Loveless’ pointed songwriting, wise and simple at the same time.
Lyrically, this is an album of blood and guts and emotions—anger and yearning and lust—that are so honest and immediate that they beg to be shared. The strength in Loveless’ vocals is how deftly she moves between tough and vulnerable, the emotions in both realms sincere and familiar.
None of this is too surprising—there were hints on her Bloodshot Records debut Indestructible Machine that this version of Loveless was lurking in the background—but the progress Loveless has made as a songwriter album to album places her in a different league all together.
Musically, Somewhere Else is a different blend too. The edges are shaved off, the songs smoother at incorporating those various country and rock elements that stuck out at wild angles on Indestructible Machine. Credit Loveless for pulling away from such clean genre lines before she could get pigeon-holed as a honky-tonk punker. In the Midwest tradition of The Replacements and Uncle Tupelo, Loveless has turned in a visceral yet straightforward rock album, executed to perfection by her band: Ben Lamb on bass, Todd May on guitar and vocals and new drummer Nick German.
“Really Wanna See You” opens the album, with Loveless singing of a coke-fueled longing for a recently married ex. It’s an all-too familiar stage of post-breakup self-examination where happiness seems a zero-sum game—and the ex has it all. “Wine Lips” takes a different track, with Loveless switching into the role of a temptress, reveling in bad ideas that inevitably go too far.
On “Chris Isaak,” Loveless looks back, attempting to reconcile the desires of a lonely 17-year-old trapped on the edge of adulthood with the woman she’s become. “What the hell was I hoping for?” she sings, weakened by those past battles she no longer understands.
The “dirty mind” Loveless confesses to having on Indestructible Machine’s closing track “Crazy” is in evidence again on “Head,” the album’s simmering lead single. But despite Loveless’ blunt plea “Honey don’t stop giving me head,” dirty mind isn’t quite the proper term. Loveless pushes the idea of longing into visceral physical terms, but she’s zeroing in on deeper feelings, urges and hopes. It’s pure escapism, rendered in dreams and sex and wine. Next, “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” frames love in all-consuming extremes. Loveless describes the wild, violent love affair between poets as a sort of ideal of devotion and blind passion, consequences be damned.
Led by a gently strummed acoustic guitar and a weeping pedal steel, “Everything’s Gone” finds Loveless aching for the safe harbor of childhood, of her childhood home. The wistfulness of remembering simpler desires settles down with a particular melancholy, but Loveless keeps fighting against the inevitable vanishing of her past, even the “dead-ass” town she’s long since left behind.
On Somewhere Else, Lydia Loveless has harnessed the barnstorming energy of her Bloodshot debut and transformed it into something much more. In a single album, she’s gone from genre-bound newcomer to celebrated songwriter working in her own creative space, her past constraints not so much thrown off as transcended. Uncompromising and direct, Loveless is one of those rare songwriting voices that seem destined to be sharing music with us for a long, long time.