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CHRONICLE: Lake Street Dive brings a new sound to the classics on “Fun Machine: The Sequel”

In 2012, Lake Street Dive released “Fun Machine”, a brief collection of six covers, including hits like “I Want You Back” and “Rich Girl”. It was their third commercial release, following a self-titled album and a live Lizard Lounge recording.

Now, 10 years and four studio albums later, they’ve returned to their roots for “Fun Machine: The Sequel.” Another set of six covers, the follow-up EP features songs the band could have covered in their early days, including works by Carole King, Shania Twain and The Cranberries.

The album begins with “Automatic” by the Pointer Sisters. Compared to the original, it tones down the disco but keeps the groove. It creates a dense texture without feeling too busy, with punchy drums and bass.

A funky electric piano plays a steady harmony during the verses, while the drums keep a strong offbeat, filling in the gaps between the piano. Full background vocals and auxiliary percussion round out the sound nicely.

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The EP continues with “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Dionne Warwick. The original mid-tempo ballad is only loosely imitated here. It’s faster and more complex, adding a lighter feeling to heartfelt lyrics without taking away from their emotional impact.

The 6/4 time signature creates a singing groove. This is reflected in the piano, which intermittently hammers out a dissonant half-step, and the percussion, which keeps things rather busy, creating a jerky rhythm. Ethereal choruses contrast, adding space to the cluttered sound.

Next up is “You’re Still The One” by Shania Twain. Perhaps the biggest departure from the original, Lake Street Dive turns the country-pop anthem into a soulful R&B serenade. The band’s typical lead singer, Rachael Price, takes a back seat on this track, allowing their keyboardist, Akie Bermiss, a chance to shine, and shine with a beautiful, expressive voice.

The instrumentals keep things relatively simple here, which works depending on the strengths of the song. The laid-back groove behind the beat lets Bermiss’ vocals stand out while a slick guitar solo enhances the song’s mid-section. It builds gradually and subtly throughout, never pushing for intensity but always brimming with sensation.

Carole King’s “So Far Away” follows this example, keeping the instrumentals light and allowing the singer to breathe. Price takes over, exploring this space beautifully and finding his own way through it.

Returning to the band’s typical busy sound, Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time.” This rendition doesn’t take too many liberties with the source material. Raitt’s sound fits well into the Lake Street Dive wheelhouse, and they only felt the need to add a few embellishments to the track.

The soft electric piano and buzzing background vocals give the song a warm, cozy texture. Price rides on it, merging with the other singers at the right intervals. The pieces fit together perfectly, creating a deep groove.

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Finally, the album arrives on “Linger” by The Cranberries. This track features the most intricate rhythmic patterns on the entire album, with busy drums and a tambourine driving the beat. The background piano strokes, electric and acoustic, create space in the texture and contrast nicely with the percussion.

The vocals on “Linger” are another musical feat. Price leads the song with her signature brassy tone, using melodic rhythms that sometimes seem improvised, but the backing vocals effortlessly follow. This song should remove any doubts about the competence and mutual understanding present throughout.

At just 23 minutes, “Fun Machine: The Sequel” is a mouthful of concentrated quality. Lake Street Dive doesn’t just co-opt these songs, they each enhance them in their own way. They align their own strengths as a group with the strengths of these tracks, allowing them to shine in new and unpredictable ways. Although this sequel comes 10 years after the original, the band still have a fresh and energetic sound, handling this material with extreme grace.