EDITOR’S NOTE: In December, we like to take a look back at albums we didn’t get around to reviewing earlier in the year. The Perpetual Optimist was released in November.
Despite the title of his new solo record, Luke Lalonde has been feeling pretty pessimistic lately. It’s hard not to in these trying times, but The Perpetual Optimist is a beautiful human study of what it feels like to be at odds with the world and with your own anxieties. It’s a sarcastic wink at what’s really going on inside Lalonde’s worried mind, and its chaotic energy is the ideal sonic representation of his uncertainty about humanity, the environment, the universe. You may know him from the hooky tunes of his band Born Ruffians, where that same Dylan-esque rasp is front and center. But in his solo work, Lalonde unleashes in a different way. The Perpetual Optimist is Lalonde at peak wild man. He howls and yelps, noodles and grooves, all while releasing his inner dialogue about what keeps him up at night.
Like the best stuff from Born Ruffians, The Perpetual Optimist is a showcase of Lalonde’s prowess at crafting a melody that makes you want to clap along. Opening track “Waiting for the Light to Change,” is a butt-shaker about making changes instead of waiting for fortune to fall in your lap. “Two Minutes to Midnight” is a rowdy, percussive party and “(Not My) Spiritual Guide” is fantastical and cathartic in its rejection of the bullshit of corporate wellness. Never afraid of getting a little weird, Lalonde is totally uninhibited in these songs.
And then he softens. A song like “Go Somewhere,” toes the line between deep sadness and warm beauty. “Don’t follow me / go out and be someone,” he sings, drawing out these notes of imparted wisdom left for him by an impactful father figure. “Wherever I went / I felt alone / So I’d write about people to keep me warm.” It is a tightly constructed folk song about making something of yourself, and its lyrics and pretty Wurlitzer piano will stick with you.