LANY’s dreamy, urban sound returns with “gg bb xx”

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The indie pop band LANY is back in fine form with their latest record, “gg bb xx,” released on Friday, Sept. 3. Despite its gibberish-sounding name, the album certainly doesn’t sound like such, presenting a strong composition of nostalgic, dreamy tunes reminiscent of their self-named debut, well-balanced with tracks more in line with the emotional ballads of “Malibu Nights.” With a variety of moods expressed in the 12 tracks, “gg bb xx” offers an exploration of album composition for the band, as well as comfort in the songs’ synth- and electro-pop leanings, culminating in an album that is my favorite since “LANY.”

A constant struggle for artists is the amorphous nature of their music: balancing an individual style with innovative sound. With the release of a new record or song comes critics’ and fans’ remarks about the artist “not staying true to their sound,” the music sounding repetitive or how their older work is superior. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to evaluating the new music of artists I like, but I am also no stranger to critiquing such work. Exhibit A, Taylor Swift, who I have followed through her various eras — although I have listened to and supported all of her music, I acknowledge what I have and haven’t liked about her evolution. 

Same for LANY: I became a big fan of the chill but upbeat urban sound of their self-titled album, and followed the band through the releases of their second and third studio albums. Although lyrically and artistically impressive in its atmospheric vulnerability — clearly produced following an impactful breakup — the 2018 release suffered from an imbalance of slower tracks. Since “Malibu Nights” only has nine songs, the dreamy, drowsy and sometimes boring beat dragged down the album as a whole. That’s not to say I don’t think “Thick and Thin,” “Thru These Tears” and “I Don’t Wanna Love You Anymore” aren’t heartwrenching, but an album of mostly heart wrenchers isn’t what I’ll turn on in the car (see Taylor Swift’s “Red” for an album that is clearly about breakups and heartache, yet still captures my attention with its artistry and diversity of tracks). 

“Mama’s Boy” bounced back a bit with a different subject and more exploration of airy sound, yet LANY’s third studio album still didn’t stand out to me. So yes, although I understand and appreciate artists’ exploring with their music, they still need to produce a well-curated album, and I’m glad to say they do just that with “gg bb xx.”

The seemingly meaningless album title is charmingly in line with the vibe of the band and this record. LANY itself doesn’t mean anything either: it’s just an acronym for “Los Angeles New York” and pronounced “lay-nee.” Lead singer Paul Jason Klein expressed the exploration and abstraction of “gg bb xx,” yet clarified that it is not a concept album.

“[I] was too obsessed with the feeling of these 12 songs to attach any real words to the title so [I] made up a phrase or a series of letters and now we have an album with a name that has no past history or preconceived notions … and [I] love that,” Klein said in an Instagram post on July 12 when he announced the band’s new album. “[A]s always, [I]’m lyrically an open book. [B]ut this is not a concept album … unless the concept is the sprawling range of my emotions and experiences from the last few years of my life.”

I’m not sure how an album without an overarching theme fits more cohesively than some of LANY’s other entries, but maybe that speaks more to the band’s maturation. Some of the songs in “gg bb xx” are more fun and upbeat (“Dancing in the Kitchen,” “Care Less”) while others evoke the deep, thoughtful lyricism that Klein is known for (“Ex I Never Had,” “Roll Over Baby”).  Listening to the album in order is a treat: “Get Away,” with its upbeat sound and electropop beats brought me right back to 2017, and “One Minute Left to Live’” is eerily fitting to close out the album.

Whether they anticipate better conditions for concerts next year or they had time in quarantine to produce more content, artists have been announcing tour dates and dropping new music left and right: Lorde, Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, Clairo, Troye Sivan, Walk the Moon — need I say more? The Los Angeles-based group is no different, announcing their new album on social media in July and the accompanying tour a week later with 30 dates in the U.S, U.K., Canada and Ireland. Prior to the announcement, one could tell the band was gearing up for more music as they teamed up with country pop singer Kelsey Ballerini on “I Quit Drinking” and released “Dancing in the Kitchen” a few weeks later. In fact, they were quite quick with their turnaround and the rest of their music releases: 60 hours after the album announcement, LANY released two songs off of “gg bb xx” — “Up to Me” and the demo version of “DNA” — a separate single with 220 Kid, “Stupid Feelings” and “Never Mind, Let’s Break Up” off of the album a month later. 

LANY had released “Mama’s Boy,” last October, so I wasn’t expecting new music from them any time soon. Yet “gg bb xx” was a pleasant surprise from the band I didn’t know I needed.

Rating: 4/5

Top picks: “Get Away,” “Care Less,” “Never Mind, Let’s Break Up”

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