This Is My This Is Lorelei Review

This Is My This Is Lorelei Review

I like to think of myself as a writer, a reader, and above all, a fan of wordplay, puns, and dad jokes. Need evidence? Look what I decided to title a newsletter about a band called This Is Lorelei.

Whenever cheeky and/or clever verbal trickery goes over my head, I'm furious. I'd listened to the great post-metalcore band Callous Daoboys for damn near two years, and even did a whole-ass interview with their frontman, before clocking the pun imbedded in their name. I played them for a coworker who'd previously lived in Texas, and his first reaction was, "Amazing, my dad and brother are huge Dallas Cowboys fans and this would piss them off so much." I took a beat, facepalmed, then seriously questioned my lack of awareness.

Ever since it popped up in my inbox in late February, a song called "Dancing in the Club" by the band This Is Lorelei has been one of my favorite songs of the year. I listened to it maybe 30 times between then and the official release of TIL's album Box For Buddy, Box For Star last Friday. I quickly memorized the lyrics, which is a rarity for me. But it wasn't until sometime during the past couple of weeks that I finally caught the overarching wordplay of the hook:

And I know it's only cards
But love I feel your heart in spades
While you were dancing in the club
I gave my diamonds all away

Absolutely fucking brilliant. The rapid inclusion of all four suits in a deck of playing cards doesn't feel forced in the least, each one working in service of the lyrical throughline without sticking out like a cutesy sore thumb. It's not completely transparent—the last line in particular is opaquely metaphorical—but it's the type of instantly infectious, deceptively clever writing I associate with consensus geniuses like Randy Newman, Paul McCartney, and Burt Bacharach.

As it clearly wasn't lyrical analysis that initially hooked me on "Dancing in the Club," I'm also quite fond of it as a piece of music. When I'm listening to songs for the first time, especially when I'm doing it in hyperspeed while digging through my inbox for stuff to feature on this newsletter, my "Is this corny?" alarm is on a hair trigger. The bright keyboards, "What's My Age Again?" guitar riff, and gratuitous autotune of "Dancing in the Club" had me immediately questioning it, but try as I might, I couldn't get my finger to move to the skip button on my keyboard. Two listens later, I wasn't just sold, I was convinced that this was the best pop song of the year.

I hadn't heard of This Is Lorelei when the name popped up in a promo email. Once I opened it, I learned that it's the solo project of Brooklyn's Nate Amos, who plays in a band called Water From Your Eyes that blew up last year after the release of their album Everyone's Crushed. After seeing a glowing Pitchfork review, I listened to it once on the train last year, but turned it off after three or four songs. I gave it another chance earlier this week, playing it in full, but the band's spiky, angular post-punk still wasn't for me.

With every ensuing Box For Buddy, Box For Star single, though, my infatuation and intrigue for This Is Lorelei grew. A pre-release stream of the full album showed up in my inbox a couple of months ago, and my high expectations were upheld.

Amos pulls off a precarious balancing act between the airy dance-pop of "Dancing in the Club" and unadorned, country and folk-inspired fare. At one end, he's twee Porter Robinson, at the other, he's millennial Elliott Smith. The obvious existing middle point between the synthetically catchy and the organically emotive is Alex G, and Amos is clearly among the hundreds of active artists that reinforce his stature as indie rock's current North Star. That said, there's never a moment on the album that feels directly indebted to Alex G, which is more than I can say for most contemporaries.

Beyond the stellar songcraft, Box For Buddy, Box For Star stands out for Amos' open-hearted but often evasive lyrics. He's opened up about his recent sobriety in interviews, and he clearly writes a ton about his close personal relationships, but while he offers glimpses of those facets of his life, the album never gets saccharine or overly familiar. Like much of the most affecting songwriting I've ever heard, tracks like "Where's Your Love Now?" feel as insular as they do universal.

Last night I caught the Box For Buddy, Box For Star album release show in Queens (as a Queens resident I balk at the designation of Ridgewood as anything but an extension of Brooklyn, but them's the county lines). As with any solo project's live incarnation, I was curious to see how Amos would render bedroom compositions that simultaneously feel suited to a one-man show but also contain laptop complexity that's difficult to replicate without six people onstage. He was accompanied by a drummer and a bassist, and excepting loop pedals and backing tracks, the only instrument he played was an electric guitar.

While they weren't as full-bodied as they would have been with a full cast replete with keyboards, samplers, and acoustic guitars played with slides, the Box For Buddy, Box For Star cuts sounded great. Amos made up for what he lacked by layering heavier riffs over the backing tracks—I wasn't surprised that "Dancing in the Club" was the highlight, but the way Amos opted to ignore his guitar during the verses and attack it with hot-ass licks during the wordless sections floored me.

Far more surprising was Amos' choice to only play four album tracks during the hour-long show. Box For Buddy, Box For Star features far more lush instrumentation than This Is Lorelei's earlier output, so I understand the hurdles, but I've never been to something billed as an album release show that devoted less time to the album in question.

Amos' plentiful previous solo output never got a fraction of the acclaim that his new album, the first This Is Lorelei project that wasn't self-released, is getting [EDIT: as Rosy Overdrive pointed out to me, Sooper Records actually released two TIL albums in 2019]. I've only dabbled in the older stuff, and honestly, after the show, Box For Buddy, Box For Star feels even more like an out-of-nowhere leveling up. The past material stood out live for its more rudimentary aspects—sure, there were highlights (namely the absolute banger "Bring Back My Dog"), but the evolution of Amos' craft was laid bare on that stage.

Box For Buddy, Box For Star will undoubtedly be among my favorite albums of 2024. It hits me on such a primal level that it's become an effortless listen overflowing with replay value. Because of my uneven opinions of Amos' other work, I'm curious to see if it heralds the arrival of a new paragon of indie songwriting, or if it'll exist more as the clear high water mark of an active artist whose remaining discography never quite connects with me. I'd prefer the former, but I'll be endlessly grateful for this magical nugget of an album either way.

Plug 1

This past week, I guested on the excellent podcast Endless Scroll to talk about the excellent new Charli xcx album. Other topics included Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and "Drop That Kitty." Listen to that on Spotify or Apple Music.

BOI (Best Of Inbox) #32

9lives, Luci4 & LAZER DIM 700 - "NUK3"

Location: Aukland, NZ-via-South Africa; California; Atlanta // Genre: "sigilkore"? WTF is that? // RIYL: moody, dark rap like SUICIDEBOYS if they were actually transgressive and decent at rapping

J.P. - "Love Bone"

Location: Milwaukee // Genre: fun, upbeat, melodic rap // RIYL: New Orleans bounce as performed by a man who sounds more forlorn the hornier he gets // From: Coming Out Party, out now

Mabe Fratti - "Enfrente"

Location: CDMX-via-Guatemala // Genre: orchestral goth-pop // RIYL: Bjork, Portishead's last album // From: Sentir Que No Sabes, out 6/28

Molina - "Scorpio"

Location: Denmark // Genre: tranquil avant-pop // RIYL: the guitar tone from ML Buch's phenomenal 2023 album, Suntub // From:

AyooLii & FearDorian - "Tony Snell"

Location: Milwaukee; NYC // Genre: fizzy, ebullient pop-rap // RIYL: Key!, midwxst, expert sports references ("I can't leave the bucks like Tony Snell") // From: A Dogs Chance, out today

RP Boo, Armand Hammer & Kronos Quartet - "Blood Running High"

Location: Chicago, NYC, SF // Genre: free jazz/footwork/rap // RIYL: wildly unexpected collaborations that push seemingly every musical boundary // From: Outer Spaceways Incorporated - Kronos Quartet & Friends Meet Sun Ra, out today

The Softies - "I Said What I Said"

Location: Portland, OR // Genre: gently sighing twee // RIYL: K Records, Slumberland // From: The Bed I Made, out 8/23

All Inbox Infinity picks are available in playlist form via Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jamie Larson