lydia illuminate

Album Review: Lydia – Illuminate

I’ve been listening to rock music ever since I was a little kid. My parents used to play their Scorpions and Eric Clapton albums in the car every time we drove, but I couldn’t tell you if “Love at First Sting” or “Unplugged” are my favorite albums by them. I’ve been to at least 100 concerts in my life, but I couldn’t tell you how many different bands I have seen live. I’ve shared music with hundreds of friends and strangers alike, but couldn’t tell you how those choices impacted their taste in music. This next band I want to review I know the answer to all those questions. It’s a band that I’m lucky to have found because it has not only helped me to understand myself a little better, but has also helped me connect with a young lady that I ended up marrying. The band Lydia means a lot to me, and is the subject to probably what will be my most personal blog entry.

Growing up, I never thought of myself as special, talented, or unique in any way. I was often sad and lonely, but put on my brave face and smiled as much as I could. By searching for new music on iTunes, I was able to find Lydia through listeners who had also purchased the band Coheed and Cambria. At the time, their latest album was “Illuminate,” an album that became my instant favorite. I can easily tell you that since its release in 2008, I have heard this album at least 365 times; that’s because I made sure to play this album at least once every day that year. Fronted by singer/pianist/guitarist Leighton Antelman, and with support on this album from Steve McGraw on guitar, Craig Taylor on drums, Ethan Koozer on guitar, and Mindy White on piano/vocals, this album became the soundtrack of my early twenties. With an indie rock sound and only moments of progressive rock, I learned every lyric and sang every note to “Illuminate” (including Mindy’s lines, yet I couldn’t reach her falsetto).

Lydia Band Live
Photo by SlimsPresents

This album is the cliché of a laid-back album. Leighton’s voice throughout the album is so personal, downbeat, and relaxed that I immediately feel he is having more of a conversation with me than he is singing to me. I can say the same thing for his vocal style and delivery in his live shows, as you can picture yourself just hanging out with the scrawny, blonde-haired Arizonan kid on stage. I think this alone is what helped me during my angst moments; I felt then and there that I wasn’t alone anymore. I’ve had the privilege to see them live four times, including their “farewell” tour where they played nearly all the songs they made up to that point. Steve McGraw’s talented guitar work is also something that drew me closer to this band. Switching from subtle and effect-driven patterns in the song “Stay Awake” to passionate lead solos in “One More Day,” my mood is easily manipulated by his artistry. The final touch of Mindy White’s beautiful vocals, especially during the album’s painful closer of “Now The One You Once Loved Is Leaving” almost leaves me in tears. I am so emotionally exhausted by this point that I can’t help but seek for relief by hitting that play button again.

The great thing about this album is that I cannot tell you which track is the best because I literally love them all. Each song has its purpose within the album, the album’s content almost like a story of love, loss, and the hardships that follow. The opener “This Is Twice Now” starts with a short piano section, and what proceeds feels like one 45 minute song because of how well each song flows into each other. The harder tracks “I Woke Up Near the Sea,” “Fate” and “One More Day” are all filled with high moments of angst, while the songs “All I See” and “Now The One You Once Loved Is Leaving” bring the overall tone and mood down. My favorite lyric, though, is easily from “I Woke Up Near the Sea,” during the song’s verse:

“And so I woke up near the sea / Sand in my dreams / You’re already falling back in love with me / Just fall back in love, yeah / Just fall back in love” (source)

After all these years, this album is still one of my favorites, and will always be. It was the first album I got to share with my wife, and is always one of the live concerts that I have the most fun with because I get to see them with her. Now as my nine month pregnant wife and I await the birth of our son, we cannot wait to share Lydia with him. So, if you guys from Lydia are reading this, I want to thank you. Thank you for helping me while I was alone, and thank you for helping me now that I am forever accompanied by the love of my life.


I highly recommend this album to those who are trying either to connect with someone, or to those who need help through a darker time in their lives. Comparable to the bands Copeland, Deas Vail, and even some of Anthony Green’s softer material, this indie rock sound is the perfect addition to anyone’s iTunes library. After a quick Tweet to the band’s current guitarist Justin Camacho, I am eagerly awaiting to hear their newest album currently in the works. Please support this band by visiting their website and Twitter. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out their latest album “Devil,” a softer album bordering pop rock, but still with that traditional indie-rock sound.

lydia illuminatePurchase “Illuminate” by Lydia by clicking the album cover above!


4 thoughts on “Album Review: Lydia – Illuminate

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