L.A. band Lost On Purpose are Will VanderWyden and Jacquelyn Thropay. It started as multi-instrumentalist VanderWyden’s solo project in 2003, and he has released six albums, adding keyboardist and back-up vocalist Thropay on 2011’s Ashes. Now a permanent member, she and VanderWyden are preparing to tour with a full live band in support of their excellent new release, Rōnin.
The themes on Rōnin were inspired by VanderWyden’s recent travels in Asia, and the music includes violins, 1980s Casio keyboards, steel drums and eBow, as well as acoustic and electric guitar. As the press release describes it, there are “elements of modern chamber pop, garage rock, and orchestral music.” The overall feel of the album is dreamy without actually being slow. There’s also a steady sense of something building in most of the songs. VanderWyden’s deep vocals have a calm intensity while Thropay adds simple but effective harmonies. There is consistently good songwriting and atmospheric arrangements, with an occasional muddiness that reminds me of early Silversun Pickups.
The opening song “Some Other Life” has a video that features footage from VanderWyden’s travels, beginning with L.A. scenes and then moving to what looks like Japan:
The chorus soars optimistically, and after a spacey break for a bridge, grungy guitars and drums kick in as VanderWyden spins along on his bike, giving everything an epic adventure feel. As one comment says, he has managed “to nail the self-shot walkumentary style without it being obnoxious or awkward”, or coming off as self-important, which can be tricky.
“Bones” immediately calls to mind The Dandy Warhols with its fun, dance-able groove and catchy chorus. That one should be awesome to hear live, as well as “In The Shadow of Your Father’s House” and “Bayonet”. The former has a great, pulsing drum beat with moody guitar plucking that breaks into an upbeat chorus; it definitely has the feel of telling a story but the lyrics are too repetitive to reveal very much, so it’s mysterious. “Bayonet” has a nice folky-ness a la Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, but with a bit more edge. Thropay’s harmonies are more prevalent here and their vocals mesh well together.
The diversity on the album is impressive: “Hunting Bow” is dark and rocking with a fast beat, while “Kyoto” has a pretty chorus that lingers. It’s a solid release and I’m looking forward to catching them live soon.
Images courtesy of Tunnel Rat Media