Lydia Hol’s second full-length album, self-released on September 17, is a Western quick draw between glamour and isolation. Ruminating on 60s Hollywood and celebrity culture during a time of intense social fragmentation, she invites listeners to scratch at the shiny surface of the “Golden Dream” — California’s iconic utopian narrative.
Overall, the album’s instrumentation is richly layered and soulful. Elements of folk, country, blues, and indie rock are evident throughout, and what emerges is a nine-track collection that is masterful and gorgeous. A dreamy melange of distorted guitar, snare, strings, bells, and lap steel evoke imagery akin to chasing a mirage through the desert — a plight both dismal and mesmerizing.
Hol’s vocals are tender, soothing and deeply meditative. Lyrically, she is poetic in her questioning of our collective cultural illusions of fame that have persisted since Hollywood’s inception.
In the opening track, “Golden Dream,” she introduces her overarching contemplation: “Is everyone as happy as they seem / In California?” Evidently, the brighter the sun, the darker the shadow.
In “Silver Screen,” she paints this haunting truth beautifully: “In that LA sunset, you look like a ghost.” Again, in “Make This Better,” she peels away at this allegory, proclaiming, “Who are you pretending to be? / Some faded Hollywood dream.”
Though profoundly powerful from start to finish, it is Hol’s rendition of Hall & Oates’ party playlist classic, “Rich Girl,” that really punches you in the gut. Dramatically slower and soul-infused, this classic dance tune becomes downright heavy. Without changing the song lyrically, Hol’s arrangement unravels the entwinement of fortune and estrangement in a way that feels refreshingly raw.
Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream is a thoughtful critique on the fetisization of California as the epicentre of glamour and happiness. Though dreamy and divine to the touch, these songs are concerned with dimming the stars in our eyes and drawing attention to the grit under our nails, a feat Hol accomplishes elegantly.—Amanda Thacker