Viva Voce: Lovers, Lead the Way (Asthmatic Kitty, 2003)

by Brent

Viva Voce Lovers, Lead the WayAsk any discriminating music listener what their biggest complaint of music today is, and you’ll likely get some variation of this answer:

“There aren’t enough creative bands.”

There seems to be a dearth of creative and talented artists in the world of music these days. This is true whether one is referring to mainstream music, independent music, or music with Christian ties. Too many bands sound purposely alike; too many bands rip off ideas, sounds, and images from the few innovative artists out there, creating a legion of bands that are soulless clones. And like “Dolly”, the ill-fated, diseased carbon-copy of a sheep who dies prematurely, these bands often sputter out unremarkable drivel that fails to captivate or inspire.

Yet, despite the lack of quantity in quality artists, there is a precious remnant of artists that propel music forward with their innovative visions of where music can go. With names like Soul Junk, Joy Electric, Sufjan Stevens, and The Danielson Famile, these artists reveal that artistic integrity is still possible in a world of musical clones. What makes the above artists even more remarkable is the fact that they create their fascinating music while being loosely associated with that mammoth ingenuity-sucking monster known as Christian Music. And, with Lovers, Lead the Way, the name Viva Voce can be added to this elite list.

Viva Voce is a husband and wife team (Kevin and Anita Robinson), currently residing in the NW. With a number of poppy indie rock releases to their name, Viva Voce have already made a slight ripple in the music world. With Lovers, Lead the Way, though, Viva Voce expands their sound widely, while retaining their knack for writing catchy pop melodies. Lovers, Lead the Way is a conglomeration of pop hooks, dreampop overtones, hints of loungesque bossa nova, and overall sonic experimentation. Yet somehow, Viva Voce pulls all of these varying ideas into one cohesive unit. That’s not to say, though, that Lovers, Lead the Way is totally consistent in scope and sound. Poppier tracks, like “One in Every Crowd”, “Wrecking Ball”, and “That’s Right,…Watch Out!” are more indicative of the classic Viva Voce pop-rock sound. But, these songs are played with more abandon than on previous recordings. In between these tracks lie what are for me the highlight of Lovers, Lead the Way. On these songs, such as the opener “Fashionably Lonely”, the fantastic “Brightest Part of Everyone” and “Yr Epic Heart”, Viva Voce let all of their creativity run amok in relatively abstract, dreamy, and ultimately compelling compositions. Incorporating keys, strings, odd samples, drum machines, as well as the usual stellar guitar work and vocal harmonies of the Robinsons, Viva Voce stops at nothing to create beauty out of their varied sources. The end result is a sonic collage of tasty pop songs, accented by ridiculously clever sonic coatings, and paired with brain-teasing experimental pieces that bury the strong melodies of Viva Voce while dazzling the ears.

A final note. Not only are Viva Voce creative, but a quick look in the liner notes reveals that they are versatile, too. For, this special couple plays most of the instruments of this home-recorded cd, testifying to their amazing talent. For once, music (even music dubbed “Christian music”, thought the lyrics of Lovers, Lead the Way are cryptic at best , with no obvious references to Christianity) is creative and fresh again. This is one important cd for fans of music, and hopefully other artists will use Lovers, Lead the Way as as measure of the excellence that can be achieved when a group sets out to create and grow, and not merely imitate.

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