Although the legend of the lost continent Lemuria has been determined scientifically defunct, punk trio Lemuria continues to persevere on its third full-length album, The Distance Is So Big. Released via hardcore-rooted label Bridge Nine (F-Minus, Agnostic Front), this effort is not the typical Bridge Nine release, nor is Lemuria the label’s most typical act. Hailing from Buffalo, these indie popsters are sugary sweet, but also occasionally literary and a little intense—they pack a honeyed punch with each thoughtfully intonated verse. As with 2011′s celebrated Pebble, Jawbox’s J. Robbins (Jawbreaker, Against Me!) hopped on to production for this one, giving each track a rugged sheen. There are no loose ends and each note serves a purpose; Lemuria uses space economically in this album and most of the songs hover around the three minute mark. They test us to take them at face value—sunny boy-girl indie pop—but it’s much more than that, and after a decade of band-hood, it’s clear Lemuria is comfortable and deliberate in their brand of forceful adorableness.
Following an ambient intro track, Lemuria hooks the listener with melodic-beyond-melodic single, “Brilliant Dancer.” Cheekily sped up verses and shared vocal duties ramp up to a shouted, “This is the last place on Earth.” It’s a simple, but oh-so-addicting formula. Sweet, but not cloying, this is not pop to be taken lightly. Plucky guitar lead-ins, sprinkled piano, and vocalist Sheena Ozzella’s playful lyrical delivery lend “Brilliant Dancer” a quirky indie backbone. Ozzella makes each syllable count.
Drummer and co-vocalist Alex Kerns takes the lead on the next track, “Clay Baby.” His voice—an almost monotone—isn’t necessarily the strongest, but it brings Ozzella’s soaring effervescence into sharper contrast. Peculiar lines like “I don’t want to come home to federal architecture” keep it clever and fun to chant along to. It’s a charmingly awkward (think middle school dance) balance, but in a more intentional way; they’ve really gotten this equilibrium down to a science. Stand out track “Oahu, Hawaii” comes to us smack in the middle of the record and serves as an emotional fulcrum. An almost wistfully layered sound—waves of violin come in at just the right moment—paired with wry, Pavement-esque lyrics like “Pig with lipstick/medical mutiny” add complexity to the longest song on the album.
In 2-minute ditty “Public Opinion Bath” the sharper, punchier side of Lemuira takes center stage. It’s a fast-paced track, steeped in punk, and almost anthemic with an earworm of a chorus: “You started making your own bed/Doctor said it would help you feel less like a shit head.” Even when things get a bit snarky, Lemuria balances it with a touch of something sweet; a smattering of floaty “oohs” break up the verses and make the chorus, when it returns, that much more powerful. It’s on tracks like this where Lemuria’s Bridge 9 ties make a lot of sense. They may not be hardcore, but what they do, they do with vigor. Sweet and thoughtful but not without edge, Lemuria knowingly toys with us on The Distance Is So Big, reveling in the loops of the lyrics and the strength of their unique saccharine force.