When we last heard from Ravi/Lola, the whimsical psychedelic outfit was cleaning house, so to speak, with the 20-track II: Ravi’s Tramadol. It was a charmingly lo-fi affair, proudly showing its roots as a home-recorded collection of kitchen-sink doodles from frontman Casey Seymour. Now, nearly two years later, a retooled and refocused Ravi/Lola is back with the terrific Shape Up Shoulders. Childlike wonder and cracked psychedelia remain, but they’re now bolstered by a veteran live band and top-shelf production.
Shape Up Shoulders goes all in with its abbreviated first track, “Uke,” which features Seymour on sitar, bassist Anton Sieger (Scrimshaw) on Vietnamese jaw harp, and keyboardist Robert Thomas (Scrimshaw) on glockenspiel. (Original collaborator Nick Wieczorkowski returns on the drums.) The summery “Hands” takes that heady sonic concoction one step further and crafts one of the best Milwaukee tracks of the season. Elsewhere, character sketch “Brownfit Cheri” swoops and swirls, “Harmony Love” reimagines Radiohead as a Turtles tribute band, and the title track finds a head-bobbing groove and digs in its Beatle boot heels. Then there’s “Teach Her,” a surprising punk-influenced rave-up that proves Ravi/Lola can get crazy with the best of them.
All throughout, Shape Up Shoulders pops with the expert recording and engineering of Milwaukee treasure Didier Leplae. He’s a perfect fit for the band, wielding the baroque instrumentation and giving Seymour’s songwriting room to breathe. The title is apt: this is Ravi/Lola’s most cohesive, enjoyable, and well-rounded record to date. Listen to it below, only at Milwaukee Record.
Ravi/Lola will celebrate the release of Shape Up Shoulders Friday, June 2 at Company Brewing. Phylums and Blue Unit will play in support. The cover $7 at the door, and includes a CD copy of the album. The show begins at 10 p.m.