There’s long been a feeling that Lemuria have been an overlooked band. It’s not hard to see why given how lowkey and unassuming this brand of indie-rock can be, but compared to so many like them who’ve continually been elevated to new heights, Lemuria have felt like the scene veterans for a while now, slogging away in the background while remaining sadly underappreciated. It says a lot in that case that the biggest talking point about Recreational Hate hasn’t been the music, but its release under a “secret LP” pre-order that ultimately turned out to be a new full-length in December, receiving its full release this year.
And that’s likely to remain the biggest talking point too, as Lemuria aren’t making any more noise that usual with this album – very lowkey, hollowed-out indie-pop with gentle guitar sways and a total lack of flash or pomp from Sheena Ozzella and Alex Kerns’ dual vocals. And even though that would be seen as ample reason to write Recreational Hate off by so many as another unresponsive, middling album that’s not worth caring about, the sheer command of melody and songs that are positively overflowing with charm ensures Lemuria have a likable, accessible listen on their hands. It won’t change the world, but there’s a little more to Recreational Hate than meets the eye, and that’s something worth celebrating.
It’s not like those issues are totally negated though, and compared to acts with a bit more force behind them, Lemuria can feel a little slight. Take a song like Lake Below, built around a frail acoustic guitar line and waifish performances from both vocalists, before dropping out into a dainty piano line that’s more than a bit twee and underweight. It makes portions of Recreational Hate a bit difficult to connect, struggling to hit an area that really benefits Lemuria’s sound as well as finding something interesting to do.
Then again, for a band like this where the smartness of both the writing and playing supersedes anything else, Recreational Hate produces some shining moments of quality, especially when viewed through the lens of increasing maturity that fuels it. As much as tracks like Christine Perfect and More Tunnel paint the picture of a band experiencing the increasing hardships as life progresses (the former doing so especially well with its central Fleetwood Mac metaphor), there’s something remarkably satisfying about ending the album with Best Extra, a song about stumbling through life no matter what troubles might block the road. It’s a remarkably plain-spoken approach, and in Lemuria’s no-frills instrumental presentation, it does a lot to work well. The jaunty skip of the ramshackle acoustic guitar and horns of Wanted To Be Yours has an earthy charm that’s immediately endearing, while the country touches of Kicking In and Trembling only make these songs feel warmer and more inviting.
Sure it’s nothing novel, and there certainly isn’t much in the way of advanced technical prowess here, but for the simple, effective album that Recreational Hate wants to be, there’s nothing drastically wrong with what Lemuria are doing here. An album as purposely understated as this might face a few problems down the line as far as memorability goes, but so does a lot of indie-pop in this vein, and Lemuria are arguably doing it better with a greater focus on sweetened hooks and rich melody. It’s definitely worth picking up, if only to see what an unfortunately underrated band can really offer.
For fans of: Slingshot Dakota, Laura Stevenson, Allison Weiss
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Recreational Hate’ by Lemuria is out now digitally. It is released physically on 2nd February on Big Scary Monsters.