Album review: Lake Street Dive, ‘Side Pony’

Lake Street Dive is (from left) Bridget Kearney, Mike Calabrese, Mike Olson, and Rachael Price.
Danny Clinch
Lake Street Dive is (from left) Bridget Kearney, Mike Calabrese, Mike Olson, and Rachael Price.

The Boston-born quartet Lake Street Dive has gained a healthy following — from festival crowds to T Bone Burnett — for its exuberant, harmony-rich blend of pop, soul, and jazz. On its fourth record (and debut for the high-pop-art Warner subsidiary Nonesuch), the band doesn’t change things up too much; the only real shift from Lake Street Dive’s previous work is an increased dose of moxie, which the band already had in generous supply.

Lead singer Rachael Price’s supple voice leads the way through sassy, spunky tracks like the string-augmented plea “Call Off Your Dogs” and the shimmying cad portrait “Spectacular Failure,” while the laid-back “How Good It Feels” is unexpectedly vulnerable, with Price’s performance making the lyrics’ shift from defiant to glum utterly human.

While Price’s voice cuts through the clutter, though, the interplay that Lake Street Dive has developed as a band is just as crucial to its appeal. Having shared songwriting duties and played together for so long has led to the group’s members being intimately aware of their collective and individual strengths; the rave-up “Godawful Things,” which opens the record, is a splendid introduction to their charm, with Mike “McDuck” Olson’s searing guitar solo bringing together the joyous chaos.


The keen interplay between bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Michael Calabrese, meanwhile, makes tracks like “Close to Me” — a ballad from the perspective of someone whose emotional wall is on the verge of collapse — sound like drawn-out sighs. “Side Pony” is a confident, expertly played statement from a band that’s been honing its approach for more than a decade, and it clearly shows that Lake Street Dive is ready to make itself known to whatever audiences have yet to succumb to its many charms. MAURA JOHNSTON

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ESSENTIAL “How Good It Feels”

Lake Street Dive performs at the House of Blues on March 23, and at Citi Wang Theatre Oct. 7.

Maura Johnston can be reached at