Curse of Lono Turn In Its Moodiest Album Yet Via ‘People In Cars’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Five years after their last LP, the UK-based Americana/folk band Curse of Lono turn in their moodiest album yet and it’s a triumph in Southern Gothic brilliance. For People In Cars, the group once again turned to producer Oli Bayston (if it ain’t broke…) and the album shows a subtle but strong evolution from 2017’s Severed and As I Fell, released the following year, finding the band more confident and fully leaning into creating atmospheric, experimental songs, while keeping that Americana at its core. 

The songs here tackle heavy topics: drugs, depression, and death but do so in such a powerfully affecting way you can’t help going back and listening again and again. Frontman Felix Bechtolsheimer lost his father a few months before they began work on the album, which certainly served as an inspiration to many of these songs. The stories here unravel in a delicately beautiful way (like on the near-perfect “Man Down”), in part thanks to Bechtolsheimer’s hypnotic vocals, which are as calming as they are cavernous. “So Damned Beautiful,” which includes a duet with Tess Parks, is also an early stand-out with the driving beat weaving into some of their strongest lyrics yet. The same can be said of “Alabaster Charlie” and just about any other track on the record.

The album title is borrowed from Mike Mandel’s 2017 photo book, which captured people in 1970s Los Angeles through the windows of their cars and trucks. The pics in the book like these songs here paint very brief snapshots of strangers dealing with their own personal struggles, (in the case of the album, it’s about infidelity, overdoses, running away, and loss).  

The album was recorded in June 2020, and despite each band member recording their parts on their own, there is still a cohesiveness to the sound that defies the reality of how it came together. With recording taking place at the beginning of the pandemic and the band being forced off the road for the foreseeable future, the other members got by with taking day jobs, essentially leaving Curse of Lono to become the closest thing to being a solo project since its founding. As Bechtolsheimer said recently, “Right now I can do what I fucking like. I got a record that’s my favorite record I’ve ever made by a long way, and it’s the record I needed to make. I lost my dad, my uncle, and my ex-partner last year, and my band, but I’ve got this record and I almost look at it as a bit of a shrine.”

The record he needed to make also happens to be their best record yet, in a short career already filled with great records. 

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