Lowell released her I Killed Sara V EP a year ago, and each of the five tracks gave us confirmation that the young Canadian singer-songwriter was fully capable of creating clever and interestingly produced euphoric indie-pop songs – including an ambitious and brilliant near 7-minute ode to the death of Sara V, her stripper personality.
With style, substance and great songs to belt out at 2am when early inhibitions have been well and truly lost into the bottom of a pint glass, it was an overwhelming and contagious success.
We Loved Her Dearly makes the decision to include the EP in full so all five tracks, which remain in the original format, end up feeling overly familiar and intrusive. These songs still sound great but that may be its biggest problem in that they now represent the majority of the best tracks on Lowell’s keenly anticipated debut, which confirms she wasn’t quite as ready to commit to a full-length debut as initially hoped.
We Loved Her Dearly begins with another lengthy track with a hymn-like feel and the singer evoking peak career Sinead O’Connor, but ‘Words of the Wars’ is an ill-fitting opening and could turn many away at a most crucial point.
‘Summertime’ and ‘The Sun’, both gloomy plodders, are both new songs that don’t fit into that early impression of Lowell as an on-point and energetic songwriter. Thankfully, however, there is still some fun to be had with the more up-tempo debuts.
Lowell openly identifies as bisexual and ‘LGBT’ is an anti-anthem in some respects, as it plays down any inclinations to be a rabble-rousing crowd pleaser. Its low slung guitar and drum machine propelled verses see Lowell talk sweetly of her experiences where she positions herself as the definitive face of gay, bi and transgender people (‘Hi, my name is LGBT’). The song literally picks up the pace as is progresses with an increasingly raucous middle eight that colludes with and then smashes apart stereotypical age-related attitudes to sexual orientation, but it’s still almost charmingly subtle in its ambitions.
Last year’s ‘Cloud 69’ and ‘The Bells’ have the kind of hooks that hitmakers who sit in airless rooms for 15 hours would gladly give their right arm for, something Lowell herself understands having previously written for the likes of The Backstreet Boys. But these two songs, in particular, have set the bar sky high for the artist with every second of them crammed with detail, expert pace and joy. ‘The Bells’, with its sly Janet Jackson nod, has a sumptuous and lazy bass-line that guides Lowell’s repeated requests for bounce and beats, while ‘Cloud 69’s’ kiss-off line of ‘fuck all you bad boys … I think I need a girlfriend’ is a post-Spice Girls girl-group mentality worth investing in.
‘I Love You Money’ has similar aims, and the hip-hop attitude of financial independence and gender superiority seems fertile ground for Lowell’s feminist agenda. However, a lazy melodic and lyrical motif in the chorus means it just falls short of living up to past glories.
If for some reason you don’t already own I Killed Sara V, then maybe you should consider getting this album as there are still a handful of tracks worth adding to the original five. We Loved Her Dearly is certainly cohesive in a sense. There are no jarring changes in style that can plague many debut albums that suffer with identity commitment and too many producers. It is instead unwritten in part and poorly sequenced.
The best new song of the bunch ‘Tell Me What You Want Me to Do’, a sturdy glam-stomping continuation of the self-possessed and hungrily gleaming mood of the EP, is the buried penultimate track. It proceeds ‘Time I Lower Me Down’, yet another ballad, ending the album with pretty much the same low energy it started with. Let’s hope Lowell can redirect her undeniable talents back into the much needed ballsy and genre-flipping pop she greeted us with upon that irresistible and intoxicating first appearance.