Album Review – LANY – mama’s boy

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The indie-pop dreamboats are back! In 2017, LANY rose to fame pretty quickly after their self-titled debut album launched them right into multiple sold-out tours with crazy international success. Then in 2018, they tore us apart with an incredibly vulnerable portrait of love, heartbreak, and grief on their sophomore album, Malibu Nights. Today, the LA-based trio release their highly-anticipated third studio album, mama’s boy. As heartthrob frontman, Paul Jason Klein puts it perfectly in a tweet, “broke our hearts making malibu nights broke our backs making mama’s boy.”

Serious or not, they call themselves the “most underrated band on planet earth.” LANY (an acronym for Los Angeles + New York) make sweet love songs for the millennial generation with a sugary ‘80s-inspired pop sound. They are the kind of band that have nearly 1M followers on Instagram, but don’t follow anyone back. They are all covered in patchwork tattoos, shoot their music videos only at sunset, and this whole album is in lowercase letters – for aesthetic reasons, of course. 

Hailing from the midwest of America respectively, band members Paul, Jake, and Les are reflecting on their roots and their past, as mama’s boy proves to be a wholesome tribute to love, home, and faith. They have stuck to their guns and have written 14 emotionally-driven songs backed by their synth-heavy trademark. No fluff, no fillers, or features. No interludes or instrumentals. Just 14 thoughtful and well-executed tunes that hold a lot of guts and grit. 

As the third promotional single, “you!” transitions from soft to rock real quick. The album starts with this anthem that grows from personal verses to a powerful cry of, “I’m nothing without you.” Klein chants over heavy guitars and drums with a children’s choir joining in the latter half of the track. After fans and critics were split down the middle about the first two singles, “you!” is warm and hopeful for the rest of the album. 

Klein’s Southern inflections in his voice come out during “cowboy in LA.” It is a charming homage to growing up as an American kid. He sings, “And you get up every day and work hard for your pay / Happy in a pair of jeans / Oklahoma / It made a man outta me” around punctual guitar notes. He has a great sense of pride being from the middle of nowhere and recognizing where he came from. It ties back to the track “Parents” on their debut album that really shows how much their families and upbringing means to the band. 

It would not be a LANY album without singing about lost loves and gut-wrenching feelings, like on “heart won’t let me” and “if this is the last time.” The latter song is about the harsh inevitably that your parents won’t be around forever, and every time spent together could be “the last time.” It is a family love letter that is awfully sad, but truly beautiful. 

Songwriting power couple Sasha Sloan and King Henry co-wrote a lot of the songs on this record and their dark, but vulnerable writing skills are especially evident on “i still talk to jesus.” The album is titled mama’s boy, and Klein confesses that “There’s been a couple times I’ve done a couple lines / I lie to my momma, I smoke marijuana / Most of the time I do what I wanna.” A gospel choir cheers him on throughout the song until it fades out with what sounds like a recording of Klein mumbling a few lyrics at the piano. 

After “paper” (another love song about star-crossed lovers), the first single “good guys” was first released back in May of this year during peak pandemic time. It is essentially a ‘nice guys finish last’ song about trying to do the right things for the wrong people. There is a push and pull between being a good guy, but never winning. There is not a lot of ambiguity or interpretation – they simply say it like it is. LANY songs are tried and true romantically charged love songs. From getting drunk and acting jealous on “sharing you,” letting people down on “bad news,” or questioning intentions on “when you’re drunk” the lyrics border a teenager’s diary but still dig a little deeper than their usual bedroom pop-beats. 

Although, “anything 4 u” and “sad” are a bit of a stretch. Paul says he’ll go as far as catching flights, crying on living room floors, sleeping in beat-up cars, and even burning the tattoos off his arms – doing anything for the ones that he loves. He finally learns to move on and let go in, “(what I wish just one person would say to me).” (Yes, the song title is bracketed). These songs have punchy choruses and tender verses that hit you right where it hurts. 

Sporting shaggy hair and chipped nail polish, PJK is known for delivering a powerful live show. He has broken down into tears on stage multiple times – being so moved by the music and the love he feels from their dedicated fans. Every LANY show consists of Klein jumping into the crowd, singing directly into their souls while hugging them all at the same time. These days, such an act is unimaginable, but everything this band does has always been with a fans-first mentality. 

Finally, the slowest song “nobody else” closes the album out as one last hopeful plea. Covered in string instruments and string lights, raw intimacy is captured in delicate production and passionate vocals, “And if heaven doesn’t want us, would you go with me to hell? / Hope you know I don’t want nobody else.” 

With a bit of shimmery LA-pop mixed with New York’s gritty rock and a dash of the heartland’s roots, LANY’s third album is an emotional rollercoaster. After their 2018 breakup record and before this new era for LANY, Paul says that “There was only one person in the world I cared about hearing Malibu Nights. Now, there’s not one person in the world I don’t want to hear mama’s boy.

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Listen to LANY’s third studio album mama’s boy out now via Polydor Records.

Ryley Remedios

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