Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You, the second Lightspeed Champion long player, is an unassumingly epic collection of 12 pop songs, two instrumental intermissions, and one piano étude, bound together by a sense of longing so piquant that the listener, after listening, can’t easily stifle the sense that he himself is on the verge of some major transition, for better or worse (though for all its self-consciousness, there’s something fundamentally optimistic – even eager – about Lightspeed Champion’s anxiety over change). The record is bristling with pleas & temporary resignations & oaths of loyalty & promises to improve, all of which are built so consistently into the lyrics & melodies & rhythms that one is utterly convinced of their sincerity, utterly convinced that one has been given an unfiltered look at the mental, even logistical state of the composer during the album’s construction. (‘Filtered through art’, you might suggest, but I’d say ‘clarified’.)
And the music...ah, the music. Huge! Where Lavender Bridge was conversational and sounded like it was composed on an acoustic guitar, Life Is Sweet! is gigantic, and definitively of the piano. Piano and synth form the album’s backbone (other instruments are handled – expertly – by the Brooklyn band Spacecamp, who have toured as Adam Green’s band and recently with Lightspeed), and the compositions reflect that starting point – Lightspeed’s early bent for American country dressings is traded here for a palette that draws on classical music and even musical theater. (When I asked whether he’d prefer that his career resemble that of Bowie, Dylan, Bon Jovi, Andrew Lloyd Weber, or “other”, he said Andrew Lloyd Weber. “Funny, I really want to write a song for Eurovision someday!”) Producer/mixer Ben Allen (Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective) does a fantastic job of assembling the eclectic grab-bag of influences: joltingly ‘70s guitar and synth sounds, a classical piano that recalls at times the British composer Michael Nyman, Greek choruses shouting reprisals, and at least one ukelele-driven moment that is mysteriously (and gratifyingly) Steve Martin-esque.
But what about the man behind the Lightspeed Champion moniker? Who is he? Where did he come from? How much free time does he have? Working backwards: very little. Dev Hynes is a man who doesn’t like to sit around waiting for results; by the time the results are in, he’s on to bigger and better, or at the very least worse but different.