The first two NZCA LINES albums saw Michael Lovett create engaging music that left an impression but listening back to them now it’s hard not to feel both existed within certain defined parameters. On third album Pure Luxury he breaks free of these constraints, producing a set of songs that take him to a higher place both lyrically and musically.
Over recent years Lovett has played with Metronomy and Christine & The Queens and a highly developed musicianship is immediately apparent on Pure Luxury. The tracks are brighter, bolder and more immediate than anything he’s done before and thematically they aim higher also. His previous albums took science fiction as their source of inspiration but here he tackles weightier real world subjects like consumerism and human impact on the environment.
This musical and lyrical upgrade is noticeable on the fast-paced title track which opens the album. Lovett sings of “scented oils, expensive sheets, complicated marinades” in a light-hearted yet sardonic takedown of materialism. Musically, synthesised bubbles percolate upwards and beats ricochet around energetically. It’s quite the opening statement and brings to mind two of his Memphis Industries labelmates, sounding like a kind of funked-up Field Music or a more danceable Dutch Uncles.
He goes further on next track Real Good Time, his vocal stretched beyond recognition into a deep, caricatured alternative over a squelchy, louche musical backdrop. Lyrically it also extends the bigger themes, voicing concerns at overpopulation and the sinister actions of unnamed higher forces. Sarah Jones of Hot Chip and American R&B/soul twin sister duo King add backing vocals to further elevate the track.
Larsen brings more in the way of disquiet, being inspired by the break up of the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017 but musically it’s all glossy, sparkling electronics. Primp & Shine has a shiny R&B feel meanwhile and Opening Night sees some pleasing Daft Punk style synth riffing. Earlier, the elegant gleam-pop of Prisoner Of Love provides hints of what Prince playing with New Order might sound like. For Your Love and Take This Apart see the pace and overall exuberance levels drop but actually work well, offering a short breather amid the ongoing verve. The combination of piano and strings on the former in particular provides an appealing oasis of calm.
Final track Tonight Is All That Really Matters feels like a rallying call of sorts, an attempt to find momentary escapism via music. As Lovett sings “‘cause when you think about it, tonight is all that really matters as long as we keep dancing” there’s almost a sense of relief, an acknowledgement of the need for diversion to offset the heavier topics covered earlier. At the moment it’s something we could all use.