Album Review: Lowell – We Loved Her Dearly

lowell review
Jamieson Cox

Elizabeth Lowell Boland, the performer who records as Lowell, makes palpably ambitious, socially conscious music that strives to strike a balance between the overtly political and the simply melodic, the painfully personal and the widely applicable.

Her feminism and passion for social justice were shaped by experience: after growing up in Calgary and Massachusetts, she moved to Toronto in an attempt to find her way into the music industry, only to drop
out o university and start stripping at a local club under the name Sara Victoria. The work troubled and changed her, and helped to fund her musical career; a year later, she was in London, working as a professional songwriter with industry veterans and honing her chops.

Ater signing with venerable Toronto label Arts & Crats in 2013, she began this year by releasing her debut EP, named I Killed Sara V. in a nod to her old stage name. The five songs that constitute I Killed Sara V. are recycled on We Loved Her Dearly, Lowell’s debut full-length, and many of them are highlights.

They showcase her versatility as a singer and writer: she can bounce from the gauzy dream pop of “Palm Trees” to saucy, hyperkineticsongs like single “The Bells” to somber reflections on her past and hard truths about class and race on centerpiece “I Killed Sara V.”

The most thrilling thing about We Loved Her Dearly is the way Lowell manages to translate her opinions about complicated, divisive social issues into indelible pop packages.

Like another Canadian avant-pop feminist, Grimes, she has a great ear for texture and plays with pace to make climaxes pop, but where Grimes likes to obfuscate and shroud herself in efects; Lowell is a little more direct and confident. Her approach matches the sense of empowerment that pervades every part of her career: her boldness, her faith in her abilities, the good vibes she derives from imploding men’s silly fantasies on “Cloud 69” and revelling in the earning power o her sexuality with “I Love You Money”.

She’s a thrilling pop star in waiting, with a social perspective and agency that feels perfectly contemporary.