The Year We Died But Stayed Alive (EP)


Independent release, 2016

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Rock music is cool when it is dark. Take for example Depeche Mode, who became way more awesome after they declared, “Let’s have a black celebration.” Making similarly gloomy synth-based music is Los Angeles-based duo Lolahiko, who embraces the same love for darkness and show it off like a bumper sticker proclaiming “Proud parent of an honor student.” But does this make them cool?

The band name Lolahiko derives from a combination of the names of bandmembers Lauren Marie (lyricist, vocals) and Ike Kawaguchi (producer, vocals) – more specifically, Lauren (Lola) and Ike’s middle name, Tochihiko (Hiko). To get a sense of the band’s love of darkness, during December 2016, the duo pronounced in an interview, “Why not add a sweet morbid tone to your holiday gift giving?” when referring to gifting vinyls of The Year We Died But Stayed Alive. If this statement and the album title aren’t enough to indicate the band’s love for black, then the opening track “Funeral” is a perfect barometer for what’s to come in the EP. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Funeral,” a song about death (obviously), is so self-indulgently morose and melodramatic that it borders on being irritating. Its annoyingness is akin to the cloyingly cheery commercials on the radio or TV for local furniture stores. Now, going back to the question of whether this duo’s love for the dreary is cool…it is not. Lolahiko lacks the smoothness and grace of aforementioned Depeche Mode in their expression of doom and gloom.

However, it is funny that “Funeral” is actually quite an awesome number. While listening to Lolahiko, your brain might recoil at the over-sentimentality of it all, but your heart will surrender to the catchiness of the music. The story of the rest of The Year We Died…is the same as on “Funeral:” “Filthy Soul,” “Guts,” “Plastic,” “Murderer,” and “Everleigh” all sound as if Lolahiko are trying to vomit darkness, but the songs are nevertheless very catchy.

Marie’s vocals are sweet and angelic, and they’re an easy bait to fall totally in love with. The deadpan hopelessness with which she sings words like, “What’s the point of fucking crying / I’ve already died” (“Funeral”), “I don’t know why you love my filthy soul” (“Filthy Soul”), “I hate your guts, I hate you” (“Guts”), “The walls of our insides are caving in” (“Plastic”), and “I am a murderer, I murdered her” (“Murderer”), will make you laugh on one hand, and on the other, make you feel touched just by the mere sweetness in her voice.

Kawaguchi’s music is heavy for sure. But it is also pleasingly atmospheric and superbly produced. It is dark but delightfully melodic. In fact, as far as pure synth music is concerned in the present indie music world, the musicianship and the arrangement do not get much better than what Lolahiko has got going on here.

Is there a super catchy sunny pop song that’s stuck in your head and won’t go away? Lolahiko’s music is like that pop song, only way bleaker. Their music might not be sunny, but it will make you hum incessantly! Marie and Kawaguchi must be doing something right.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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