CONFESSIONS ALBUM REVIEWS
Monday, May 7, 2018
Album Review: Lunden Reign - Confessions
There are bands and records that come along which make me look forward to the future. They are new artists who stir something in me, and make me excited about the future of music. Now, the truth of the matter is most of these bands wind up disappointing me in the long run, because I am rather persnickety, and because consistently writing great music is hard. It just is. So when you come across a band that can deliver more than once releases that you love, keep in mind just how rarely that can happen.
A couple of years ago, Lunden Reign was one of those bands for me. Their record, "American Stranger", was one of my favorite albums of 2015. They were on the edge of the movement making classic rock relevant again, and they updated it to the modern age better than nearly anyone. Their sound, their songs, and their message all stuck with me. So I was holding out hope that when they returned, they would be one of those bands that could strike lightning twice.
"Confessions" is a bold step forward, and is anything but a sequel to "American Stranger". That is an artistic choice that is daring, and also one that pays off in spades. Rather than writing another classic rock record that pays homage to the 70s, they have moved forward a decade, making an album that looks fondly to the 80s, pulling in synths to create a layered sound that even more fully embraces melody.
We heard this first in the single that was released last year, "Red Wagon", which was a natural progression from the first record to this new one, and hit the mark as one of their best songs. What these new songs all have in common is an ear for melody, and a sense of care and craft in constructing this record. You can hear how important these words and these songs are to the band, which is refreshing when you come across so many albums that appear to be written for no other purpose than having new songs to play. "Confessions" means the world to Lunden Reign, and you can hear that authenticity and truth come through.
The record has a strong diversity to it, from the dreamy pop hooks of "Stardust Daze", to the soaring "Red Wagon", and the gritty heaviness of "Dead Man Walking". Throughout the album, the songs meld Laura's skillful guitar playing, which layers textures in a way that builds rich songs (a deceptively difficult skill that gets far less attention than flashy solos) with Nikki's passionate vocals. Nikki continues to be the band's trademark, with her Sheryl Crow meets Stevie Nicks voice sounding like nothing else in this genre. These songs were smartly written to play to her voice's best qualities, and she nails her performances.
Classic rock influenced bands are often copycats, bands that act as if having the right guitar tone and production are all it takes. Lunden Reign are not that. They use their influences to speak their truth, and that message is what makes them important. They aren't a band writing songs about rocking and partying, filling albums with songs that are ultimately meaningless. They are, to borrow their own term, confessing to the audience. That takes strength, and it's admirable.
"American Stranger" was one of my favorite records of 2015, and "Confessions" is every bit as good an album. It has a different appeal, but I find myself wanting to come back to it, which is the hallmark of a great album. I said then that Lunden Reign was a band with a bright future, and now that we're living in it, I was right.
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Labels: album review
LUNDEN REIGN – Confessions
May 5, 2018
Independent - 2018
Impressive soul-searching from within strange, yet welcoming, world.
It’s a getting-to-know progress for the creative and personal partnership of Nikki Lunden and Laura Espinoza-Lunden whose debut album "American Stranger" captured them moving away from LA alienation to a friend-and-confidante intimacy that’s spectacularly realized here: whereas previously there was a red, arid, “voice in a wilderness” color scheme to the record, “Confessions” glows, especially on vinyl, with turquoise delight. Spiritual serenity is far from the ensemble’s minds, though, catchy cuts such as “Fate Of The World” going beyond purely emotional depth and tapping into global worries; more so, the road to this release has also been fraught with troubles as the band planned it for the end of 2016 but encountered some serious obstacles, including Nikki’s loss of voice due to illness.
Which is why determination rules the game on the tense, near symphonic “Never Ending Dream” and the equally reflective, alt-tinged opener “Stardust Daze” whose guitars sting and vocal harmonies caress the listener’s ears, and “Little Lost Girl” is an upbeat encouragement piece. Yet six-string riff and piano ripple are only a thread in the title track’s throb – mesmeric and enchanting in an esoteric, if memorable, way – while the folk inflections informing the drive of “Coming Home Tonight” elevate its lyricism to the sunny skies, before the heavy groove behind “Red Wagon” bids farewell to the simple pleasures of one’s past.
That’s the contrast needed to spike “Dead Man Walking” with anger and rock ‘n’ roll licks because it is exactly the drama demanded of the future heroes, and that’s what’s igniting the pop agenda of “Thunder Or The Rain” to give it hope. But the funk-fueled “Faded Memories” is so innocently sweet it’s impossible to ignore – as is the entire record whose inner sanctum may seem strange until it turns out to be all-encompassing and open for all.
LUNDEN REIGN: CONFESSIONS (BLUE VINYL, 12 INCH LTD EDITION)
May 8, 2018
California is the home of lead vocalist and guitarist Nikki Lunden and guitarist and keyboard player Laura Espinoza-Lunden, who form the hard core of Lunden Reign. For their second album, the 'Confessions' released on limited blue 12 inch vinyl, in limited editions, the duo let themselves be assisted in the studio on drums and bass. The music of Lunden Reign can be described as alternative rock or in a modern twist of classical rock. With their debut album 'American Stranger' released in 2015, they were in the spotlight worldwide, which will certainly also succeed with these 'Confessions'. Not only because of the catchy melodies, but also because of the lyrics. These have sprouted from the personal experiences and visions of Nikki and Laura. These are both their visions on how things are going on politically in the world, and the disillusionment and complexity in love and relationships, which are often the cause of an inner struggle to be delivered. Experiences and feelings that also touch the listener and are translated musically here. However, the recordings did not go without a struggle. When the time was right to record the vocals, Nikki lost her voice and had to recover for two months. After hiring a voice coach, fortunately everything went well again. Lunden Reign starts with a U2-like feel in 'Stardust Daze', which makes Nikki's clear voice sparkle. Nikki is a very good singer, who should not be inferior, for example, to a Pat Benatar. Rougher and even a tad synth psychedelic it goes on the title track. A song that quickly settles between your ears. Then the accelerator is released with the beautiful 'Coming Home Tonight'. Kant 1 is sublime with the somewhat softer, inspired by Laura daughters and by Nikki heart-warming vocals 'Little Lost Girl'.
The second side opens up to a driven beat, with the 'Fate Of The World', carried by powerful guitars. Despite all the misery in the world, Lunden Reign sees a light in 'Never Ending Dreams', where love will ultimately prevail.
'Confessions' does not contain any weak number and shows the high rock content that these ladies exude. Rock that carries both strength and beauty, which is not always obvious.
If you do not get the vinyl version, surf to Lunden Reigns site, where you can also digitally purchase the album. Definitely to consider, because 'Confessions' is worth exploring!
Lambert Smits (4 ½)
Can powerful, guitar-driven rock go hand in hand with meaningful lyrics and beauty? You do not believe it? Then listen to Lunden Reign, the band of Nikki Lunden and Laura Espinoza-Lunden. They will open your eyes with 'Confessions'. Rock at a very high level!
April 24, 2018
On the heels of their critically acclaimed debut album, Lunden Reign is releasing their second album “Confessions” on limited edition 12-inch vinyl on April 14, 2018, on the Capitol Records label. It is not very often that I receive a vinyl album to review which I am thrilled with this one being on beautiful blue vinyl and is signed by both Nikki Lunden and Laura Espinoza-Lunden. This is my second review for this great band with American Stranger which I reviewed back in December 2016. This album shows the growth since their last album with 10 powerhouse songs that focus on political emotions and empowerment as well as some fantastic love songs that will make the hairs stand on your neck such as Stardust Daze, the title track Confessions, Fate Of The World, Dead Man Walking and much more. I was impressed by how well this album was written, performed, recorded and produced. You will want to add this album to your library.
Lunden Reign: “Confessions” (2018) Record Review
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2018
Okay, I admit that I am a sucker for colored vinyl. And Confessions, the new record from Lunden Reign, is offered in an incredibly appealing aquamarine shade, with a slight marbled quality. Basically, it’s beautiful. One thing I love about records is the physical relationship it creates between you and the music. And the colored vinyl just makes that relationship even more enjoyable. All right, enough about that. Lunden Reign is a Los Angeles rock band, the core of which is the duo of Nikki Lunden on lead vocals and guitar, and Laura Espinoza-Lunden on guitar and keys. Both contribute material to the new album, which is the band’s second full-length album, following 2015’s American Stranger. Luis Maldonado, who produced the album, plays guitar, bass and keys (and also co-wrote the music). Also on bass are Mathew Denis and Devin Hoffman; on drums are Matt Lucich and Noel Jasso.
Side 1 kicks off with “Stardust Daze,” a strong and positive rock song in which Nikki Lunden sings “We have to find a way/We’ve got to find our way/We’re living in the face of dreams/And everything we’re living for/Is something that’s worth fighting for.” The vocals are delivered with passion and honesty. This is a song I like more each time I listen to it. It’s followed by “Confessions,” the record’s title track. This one is a harder song, with more of an uneasy edge, and it grabs me from the start. I absolutely love the vocal line on this one. It’s interesting that revealing one’s self is akin to confessions.
The first lines of “Coming Home Tonight” are “For days I’ve been so haunted by/Your fierce embrace/And bewitching eyes,” and there is something haunting in the vocal delivery. Then, when it kicks in for the chorus, it becomes more firmly rooted in the pop realm. This song features some unusual lyrics, like these lines: “A portrait of a charcoaled girl/Drawn on sheets on a tilt-a-whirl.” (My friend once vomited on a tilt-a-whirl, and tried to hold it in his mouth, and every time we’d pass by the guy running it, my other friend and I would shout out to him to stop it. The guy ignored us, and eventually, well, my friend couldn’t keep it in. I haven’t been on a tilt-a-whirl since. Okay, slight digression there. Sorry.) “Coming Home Tonight” is followed by “Red Wagon.” In this one, they sing “And we can’t go back to yesterday.” That’s true, and yet this song itself takes me back to an earlier time. Something about its sound makes me feel like I’m a child again, and that’s part of the point of the song. No, we “can’t return to yesterday,” but we can certainly revisit the way we felt then. Likewise, “Little Girl,” which concludes the first side of the record, might take you back. There is something of a 1980s rock thing happening, which I like. I also really like the way Nikki approaches the vocals, particularly on the chorus. This one also has a positive vibe, urging us to not give up, with lines like “And the sky/Won’t fall upon you this day/And the moon/Will shine until a new day/Comes to me and you.”
Side 2 opens with “Fate Of The World,” rock song of a certain, heavier mood. “These modern day times/Such criminal minds/We’re led into a dark story.” That is true, though I’m doing my best to not let myself be pulled down into it. It’s difficult to separate yourself, to not be affected, isn’t it? This song obviously has something to say about our world, our current situations. Lines that stand out to me as being particularly pertinent are “They’re spewing out lies/Dreams to start to unwind” and “They led us along/Why didn’t we care?” That’s a big question I have these days, even as I try to care a little less myself, in order to keep from completely succumbing to despair or anger. Ah, where is that line? To be informed and concerned with being inflamed and consumed. “Never Ending Dream” takes place in this same dark world, but has a slightly more romantic bent. “Hold me tight so I can sleep/When I wake I want to be/In your arms where I don’t care/If my ghost brings me despair.” How about those lines?
“Dead Man Walking” is a fairly powerful song about the dangers of hard drugs. Nikki gives a passionate, angry vocal performance, and the vocals are what sell the song. “The desperation in his eyes/Believing in the needle’s lies/Fingernails scratch down his spine/Wasted by the demon spies.” Then “Thunder Or The Rain” has heartache and a sense of powerlessness, though you get the feeling she finds strength even in those powerless moments. The album finishes with “Faded Memories,” which hooks you immediately with that guitar part, which has a bit of punk to its style. “Time cuts deep/Recollections bleed/Tearing pages from a book/That you will never read.” A strong finish to a really good record.
AMERICAN STRANGER ALBUM REVIEWS
It has always struck me as a bit insulting that when you consider the roles of women in guitar-driven bands, they are either treated as curiosities, or they are the eye-candy representatives of something other than what you're listening to. The majority of female singers in this kind of music get broken down into two camps; the pop stars who never found their big break, or the classical singers who are used to make metal seem more dignified. There are very few true rock singers who get any attention, which is a shame for more than just the reasons of equality, but also because when they hit the mark, they can be even more effective than bland baritone man #427.
Lunden Reign is a band propelled by two women, singer Nikki Lunden and guitarist Lora G, not that such a fact matters. What's more important is that they are a classic hard rock band in a time when they are sorely needed, and they're making the bold statement of introducing themselves with “American Stranger”, a concept album.
It would be too easy to compare Lunden Reign to a band like Heart, but there's something about the chugging guitar in the opening seconds of “Love In Free Fall” that reminds me of “Barracuda”. There's a nice blend of classic rock with modern sonic touches, and Nikki's vocals are warm and inviting. The song is muscular and engaging, but lacks the bite to really be the powerful opening statement that it needs to be. “The Savage Line” follows, and as the first single, it's the introduction to the band that would have guaranteed success if this kind of rock still had a place on radio. The feeling is a bit more restrained, and the melody and harmonies in the chorus are subtly catchy, leaving you bobbing your head along before you know it.
“28IF (Without, Which Not)” has a title that is a garble of words and letters, but it's another highly enjoyable mix of the new and old, and exactly the kind of song that Lunden Reign needs to be building their reputation on. The mix of rock swagger and catchy hooks is well-balanced, and keeps the music from ever feeling the least bit poppy. There's plenty of grit and bite to the songs, which is due in large part to Nikki's ability to sing rock with all the blood and guts it needs.
“Hush & Whispers” continues the winning streak, with a driving rhythm and big hook that will probably become the band's biggest live anthem, while the title track introduces a cello to give an increased sense of drama to the composition. “Mary” is the album's centerpiece, and longest song, and features some gorgeously crisp guitar tones that cut through the mix and give the riffs the ability to attack.
By the time we get to the end of the record, two things are clear; 1) "American Stranger" is one of those rare albums that could benefit from being longer. At a taut 37 minutes, it's a brisk bit of music that passes by too quickly. I would have liked there to be one more song to flesh things out just a touch. The album feels a bit short to me. 2) However, Lunden Reign has made a damn solid rock album. Sure, I wouldn't mind if they had pumped a bit more pop sheen into some of the melodies to really make the songs impossible to forget, but that doesn't take away from the fact that what they've done is impressive. “American Stranger” is a strong outing for a debut album, and a needed statement to redefine the ways we see women in rock music.
That might be asking a bit too much of an album, but I always enjoy getting to hear reminders that the stereotypes we live with are of our own making. Lunden Reign defy expectations, and they've made a strong case for themselves. “American Stranger” is a fantastic example of modern classic rock.
Lunden Reign is a group fronted by two strong leading ladies Nikki Lunden (vocals) and Lora Espinoza-Lunden (guitar). Their sound blends hard rock with catchy hooks woven into compelling lyrics. Lunden Reign’s record American Stranger starts off with two searing tracks “Love In Free Fall” and “The Savage Line” both rockers that sets the pace for this 10 track album. Insightful songs paired with interesting progressions make for a potent debut album.
LUNDEN REIGN – American Stranger
LA perfection drawing near for heavy, yet progressive, groove and a message to boot.
Big and loud rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t lend itself to art concepts too often, but then, there’s not a lot of female-fronted metallized bands today who don’t fall for either riot grrrl stance or faux operatic, cold melodrama. Singer Nikki Lunden and multi-instrumentalist Lora G, a couple who lead this ensemble, know that too well to play by their own rules and find the right balance between all the concepts. It may take some delving into “American Stranger” to see a bigger picture, a story, behind the album’s songs and the feel the songs’ pull, yet “Love In Free Fall” sucks one slap-bang, without typical introduction, in the midst of the drama, which hints at a specialness of it all.
The catchy drive unfurls as Lunden’s husky voice swirl around G’s riffs, a dance rhythm supporting the passion, even more fiery in “Hush & Whispers” whose handclaps and tom toms are as far away from its title as it gets, while “The Savage Line” marries alt-pop approach to a folk-tinged, cello-abetted intensity and rich vocal harmonies. And if “Hear Me” offers an acoustic lifeline to turn it into a steel cord, the raga-kissed title track and “The Light” get high on the arrangement’s orchestral promise and the same pained, though uplifting, sincerity. And there’s no escape from the six-string twang and piano runs under “When Love Lies” and the title cut’s memorable chorus, so when the noisy finale states “It’s About Time,” that’s all it takes for this ensemble to take off and become if not a household name then not a stranger.
Title - 'American Stranger'
Artist - Lunden Reign
Nikki Lunden (Lead Singer, Bass, Keyboards, Composer) & Lora G. Espinoza-Lunden (Composer, Guitarist, Keyboards) came together to form LA Based, and creatively-named Lunden Reign in mid-2013. Shortly after they teamed with platinum-selling producer Luis Maldonado for their debut album, this incredibly vibrant work of musical art I now hold in my hand, AMERICAN STRANGER.
Having already toured alongside some of the arcs of classic music of their genre; names such as rock legends Prescott Niles of The Knack and even Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons, Lunden Reign's twin blonde firecracker ladies stir enough heat live on stage that it thankfully makes its way to this CD en masse.
Contained on this fabulous debut are ten (10) powerhaus tracks that showcase Lunden Reign's highly-original, some might even say "alternative big beat" styling to the fore. Kicking off with 'Love In Free Fall,' they back that up with 'The Savage Line' and then sprinkle in such tracks as 'Hush & Whispers,' Hear Me,' and amongst others, both 'When Love Lies' and 'It's About Time.'
AMERICAN STRANGER was recorded at Capitol Records, Hollywood, CA; Abbey Road Studios, London, UK; and Stagg Street Studios, LA and mastered by Grammy winning Evren Goknar at Capitol Records, Hollywood.