Lake Street Dive has been proudly wearing the “quirky” label for the better part of a decade. Their obsession of 1970s AM radio pop — right down to covers of “Lola” and “Rich Girl” — blends perfectly with offbeat lyrics that blindside you with charm and wit, as with “Good Kisser” from 2018’s Free Yourself Up. Most importantly, it all seems to come from a bottomless well of joy.
With their latest, Obviously, that infectious joy is still present, but it’s tempered with a strong and sobering pull to make the world a better place for present and future generations. Nowhere is that more apparent than first single, “Making Do.” Released toward the end of a tumultuous year, the song speaks to all of us who are “making do with what we’ve got,” offering encouragement and motivation for not settling for the status quo.
Working with producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Elizondo, Lake Street Dive’s sound has deepened this time out. The quirkiness is still there, but it’s couched in a multilayered audio experience that for the first time fully captures their unique mix of jazz, pop, rock, and R&B. Elizondo, whose credits span projects with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Fiona Apple, and Carrie Underwood, finds a bridge to hip-hop on Obviously that threads throughout the album, grounding the music without overwhelming. That’s, well, obvious, from the light-funk touches that drive “Know That I Know” — including its dreamy psychedelic coda — to the deeply infectious opening track, “Hypotheticals.”
Other tracks, such as the empowering “Nobody’s Stopping You Now” and “Being a Woman,” glide along like lost soft rock hits of the ’70s AM airwaves while carrying messages of strength, empathy, and camaraderie. The album closes with “Sarah,” a song so rich with musical textures it takes a moment to realize it’s a cappella. Obviously continues Lake Street Dive’s proof that great pop can inspire more than just the hips. It can also motivate the mind and stir the soul.