What if Bjork grew up in Ballard? That is a really reductive and deceptive way of describing her sound, but Lucy Bland has an incandescent one, and it encompasses more than someone somewhat inspired by an Icelandic avant-pop airport-brawler playing synth and singing sweetly on Market Street for spare change.
Tonight Bland is playing The Comet on Cap Hill, on a bill with terrific 80s-Anglo pop-rockers Blue Skies For Black Hearts ("Siouxsie Please Come Home," anyone? That's the opening track on their new album, "Seranades and Hand Grenades." These guys are hopefully as fun live as they are on the disc).
Most of us will be still partying from KEXP day in Ballard and could use some new music both a bit sugary and substantial. Bland combines an alternately spriteful and luxuriant electronic pop sound, remarkably assisted by restrained strings (both violin and cello) and an occasional broad bass throb, with her ocean-obsessed songs about romantic engulfment and rescue.
"Down To Sea Level" is Bland's first album, and all of its ten tracks are different and good. Her voice shows its influences but also has a more commercial nudge than lo-fi homemade pop is used to. This is shiny stuff, its idiosyncracies a considered and crafted choice, not just music for a milieu. The delicate cello on "Fly Away" bobs against Bland's keyboard clanks and bleeps as the pendant story descends — "I don't want you / I don't want you / I don't want you / to fly away. Even though that's what you do. / Even though that's what I do." It's these careful turns in the plot of her tunes that confirms the listener's taste in appreciating her sound. "You need to know when you are wrong. / You need to know when you are right." ("Blueprints.")
Bland's first full-length is a shockingly mature debut, smacking like a sweet bridge between the sound-poetry of a middle-later period Joni Mitchell or Suzanne Vega and the angular confessions of (yes) a more melodic Bjork. The floating bass behind "Valor" (my pick hit here, halfway through the record) has me hooked, and its craftsmanship just might just get me out to the show tonight.