Lake Street Dive: Bad Self Portraits

Written by Meredith Lustig

Soprano

March 29, 2017

Hiya Folks,

Wednesdays, am I right? Humpday. Notoriously sluggish and reminiscent of pushing a two ton boulder up a steep hill in 98 degree heat. The weekend is still a hazy finish line miles from where you stand. Optimists might try to chime in with, “But Wednesday means the work week is half over!” If I’ve consumed the appropriate amount of caffeine I can usually muster a polite smile or chuckle, but heaven help them if they try to hit me with that glass half full nonsense before noon… Shade. Will. Be. Thrown. I find the best way to fight the Wednesday doldrums (that doesn’t involve day drinking) is with music, which brings me to our Song of the Day: Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive.

I have so much respect for Lake Street Dive. My introduction to them was via their cover of Jackson 5’s I Want You Back which went viral in 2012 (check it out: it’s fantastic!). I was struck by Rachel Price’s colorful, flexible vocals, instantly became a fan and have followed them ever since. In addition to Rachel, the band is made up of Bridget Kearney on upright bass, Mike Calabrese on drums, and Mike “McDuck” Olson on trumpet and guitar. Whenever I need that extra lift in my step (whether at the gym or trying to get excited about an early morning audition), their unique sound pumping through my earbuds helps me feel ready to tackle anything.

In truth, most of their tunes are worthy of highlighting today.  However, when I open my spotify artist library, the tune I gravitate towards first is usually Bad Self Portraits. It has that perfect beat that puts a Top-Model power strut in my step.  On first listen one might find the lyrics are a little sad, but I find them empowering. For me, it’s the story of a person whose life took an unexpected turn, but they were determined to make something of what they’re left with. The classic lemons to lemonade theory (I may throw shade at the optimist before noon, but at heart I’m a silver lining kind of gal!).

Just as the lyrics of Bad Self Portraits are open to interpretation, so too is the definition of Lake Street Dive’s musical sound. When asked to describe their style, the band says they strive to sound like “the Beatles and Motown had a party together.” The result is a sound that falls somewhere between popular and swing era jazz (with the slightest hint of classic Patsy Cline-esque country on songs like So Long).  But whatever the style, their New England Conservatory training shows in their fierce chops and classy musicianship.

That may be the thing I love most about Lake Street Dive. Those chops shine just as brightly live, making their concerts equally, if not more, impressive than their discography. So often I fall for a band and shell out big bucks to see them perform, only to be seriously disappointed. They’re merely a product of a talented producer/sound engineer. Not Lake Street Dive. I recently attended their show at Music Hall of Williamsburg and was on cloud nine for weeks from the experience. The concert was inspiring and made me hungry to find ways to bring the same authenticity and abandon I witnessed into my own work. These guys rock and I hope their path to success leads onward and upward. I can’t emphasize it enough: check them out!

In any case Reader, thanks for sticking with me through what is debatably the crankiest day of the week. You’re a champ. You got this. Wednesday is no match for you…and should you need a little extra TLC, I hope this tune will help you turn it around!  XO-M

Meredith Lustig

Praised for her “radiant soprano” and “outstanding dramatic presence,” soprano Meredith Lustig is an artist of great versatility and sophistication. An alumna of multiple NYFOS Emerging Artists programs, Meredith will return in the upcoming spring gala Honoring Stephen Sondheim on April 19.

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