By Dylan Healy – Contributor
There is a reason why LVNDR TWN is not spelled out. Lavender Town looks too sweet, too innocuous. The newest release by CT/NY force-of-nature Jelani Sei serves as a visceral response to our current political and civil climate, which there is nothing harmless about. So why would they try to sugarcoat it? LVNDR TWN is bold, confrontational, and immense. Presented in a vibrant technicolor, the record exposes ubiquitous juxtapositions found in our contemporary civil discourse. As the group grows in strength, their objective remains unwavered– to change your perspective, one groove at a time.
On opener “Telephone”, the quintet wastes no time flashing their fangs. What begins with a growling bass and pummeling percussion shifts into a dreamscape held together by Jelani Sei’s tenacious groove. This reverie carries seamlessly through standout track “Divinity”, the group’s most straightforward banger on the new release. Saving the instrumental complexities for later, “Divinity” focuses on the uninhibited dialogue between vocalists Kayana Guity and Evan Lawrence: “Please show me how you feel. Restless on my mind, it’s real,” they crave in harmony before diving into the most catchy chorus on their catalogue to date.
The body of the EP is rife with moments to both reflect gently and dance brashly. Jelani have been nailing the adventurous number “Queens” in concert all year, and it does not lose an iota of luster on record. Surreal and grand, “Queens” (a likely nod to an older highlight “Kings”) delivers what has become one of my favorite live moments from the group: Guity’s impassioned belting carries through a series of quick-switch rhythm changes led by drummer Enayi Tamakloe, followed by the entire band locking into a chain of lead-heavy punches.
On knockout closer, “Msg”, Lawrence and Guity get close to the mics in preparation to deliver a necessary announcement. Crooned conviction assures listeners “I’m not mad at you, I’m only mad at the way things are today,” with a hushed candor. How else can this upcoming, coddled generation understand that “the way things are today” is not okay and cannot be the norm? “Msg” carries the weight of racial/generational fear, calling out police brutality and insecurity masked by boasted privilege. Directed at both aggressors and victims, Jelani Sei provide a crucially unapologetic voice, “This is a message for the blue / You’re not gonna tell me how to feel, how to scream, how to breathe. / Message for the youth / despite chaos stay true to yourself.”
Lavender Town, however it may take form, might solely exist internally on a dichotic plane where injustice, oppression, and tension incessantly combat their antitheses. Perhaps it is a purgatory for the world’s malice, kind of like The Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. Or maybe the Upside Down in Stranger Things? In a Facebook post, the band offered,
“Lvndr Twn exists to remind us all that there is a plethora of evil in the world that will likely never die (cuz humans are reckless)… There will be people who will try to silence you, tell you what to do and how to do it, both physically and verbally. WE CANNOT LET THOSE PEOPLE WIN.”
This is the necessity for LVNDR TWN: Rather than simply acknowledging a dangerous civil climate, Jelani Sei propose how to react to it, hopefully stunting budding breeds of bystanders. Advocates of action and gurus of groove, Jelani Sei have an unequivocally mighty spirit.
Listen to LVNDR TWN by Jelani Sei below: