album list


Greg Laswell  (US)

How the Day Sounds EP  (2008,  23.55)  **½
Three Flights From Alto Nido  (2008,  39.06)  **½
Take a Bow  (2010,  46.17)  **

Greg Laswell is the kind of modern, indie-esque singer-songwriter whose songs get used on TV and in films, which probably says as much about him as you need to know. Mainstream? Ever so slightly... 2008's How the Day Sounds EP is almost his career in microcosm, featuring upbeat, vaguely U2-ish jolly efforts (the title track, Days Go On), er, downbeat, less jolly ones (Salvation Dear, Embrace Me) and a couple of alternate versions of tracks fitting one of the two aforementioned templates. Laswell plays samplotron flutes on the title track and strings on Embrace Me.

The EP was a precursor to that year's Three Flights From Alto Nido; effectively, more of the same, when the EP was quite long enough, thanks. Laswell on samplotron again, with strings and flutes on It's Been A Year, flutes on How the Day Sounds (same as the EP version) and occasional strings on Not Out. 2010 brought Take a Bow; an even more drab effort than before, perfect for lovelorn young women, utterly useless for the rest of us. Laswell adds samplotron strings and choir on My Fight (For You) (and is that a MkII Mellotron guitar I hear?), strings on Around The Bend, very obvious flutes on In Front Of Me and strings on You, Now. Overall, Mr. Laswell has little in common with his East Coast namesake, Bill; this Laswell couldn't be more mainstream if he tried.

Zak Laughed  (France)

The Last Memories of My Old House  (2009,  44.51)  **

I was originally under the impression that Zak Laughed was a band, but it turns out he's a fifteen year-old French lad - his nom de plume is apparently a literal translation of his full name, Zacharie. His self-written debut, 2009's English-language The Last Memories of My Old House, is full of breezy, Gallic folk/pop and slightly fraught ballads, let down by one overriding problem: Zak's voice. Admittedly, it's not his fault that it hadn't yet broken at the time of recording - in fact, the decision was taken to record the songs written for his immature tones before it did - but it is his fault (and his record company's) that he's committed his tuneless, appallingly flat warblings to a recording medium without pushing himself into better performances. Is this deliberate? If so, why? Frankly, at its best, he sounds as if he's trying to pull off that American half-spoken effect, but as soon as he tries to carry a tune, pain ensues. Zak and Denis Clavaizolle play samplotron, with polyphonic flutes on opener December Song and a monophonic line on Travelling Cat.

James Lavelle  (UK)

Global Underground: Romania #026  (2004,  140.23)  **

James Lavelle is half of UNKLE, going on to become an in-demand DJ, producer and remixer (it says here), while Global Underground is a series of compilations of progressive house DJ sets, initially recorded at, later inspired by club nights in exotic locations. Romania #026 is Lavelle's contribution, virtually indistinguishable from any other random similar effort to the uninitiated (that'll be me); effectively a compilation released under Lavelle's name, which is why it's here and not in various artists. What does it sound like? It sounds like a dance album. Yes, I'm thoroughly ignorant. No, I don't care. Dave Eringa plays samplotron on South's Colours In Waves (UNKLE Reconstruction), with a faint, high string line that you probably wouldn't even pinpoint as Mellotronic were it not credited.

Amy LaVere  (US)

Stranger Me  (2011,  45.24)  ***
Runaway's Diary  (2014,  38.28)  ***½

Amy Lavere's Stranger Me is even more diverse than This World is Not My Home, although not necessarily for the better, as it comes across as slightly uncohesive in places. Better tracks include opener Damn Love Song, her upright bass to the fore, the electric blues of Red Banks and the rhythmic title track, although too many songs lack the energy that might allow them to cut through. Rick Steff plays samplotron flute chords on A Great Divide. 2014's Runaway's Diary is a better effort all round, her country influences tempered with something more personal. Lyrically (and vocally), she takes on the persona of a small child on Big Sister, an unusual, yet effective technique, while opener Rabbit, Snowflake and the playful rockabilly of I'll Be Home Soon all stand out. Sam Shoup plays distant samplotron strings and cellos on Don't Go Yet John.

Marc Lavoine  (France)

Marc Lavoine  (2001,  51.53)  ***

Marc Lavoine's background is more chanson than le rock'n'roll, at least going by his eighth, eponymous album from 2001. OK, it has a few programmed beats thrown in for the sake of modernism, but take the contemporary touches away and this could've been made in the mid-'60s. Lavoine duets with several female vocalists, although the only one I've heard of is Françoise Hardy, I'm afraid. The material's almost above criticism; it's French popular song and it does what it does, like it or not. Uncredited 'Mellotron' flutes on opener Le Pont Mirabeau from Jean-François Berger, although the credited Mellotron on Ma Solitude.com is clearly sampled. Proof? MkII rhythms and guitar.

The Lazily Spun  (UK)

[Various MP3s]  (1999,  25.37)  ***

The Lazily Spun (a reference to the famous 'see how spiders spin webs on various drugs' experiment?) are a UK psych outfit who seem, going by their various releases I've heard, to be as heavily influenced by '80s and '90s developments in the genre as by the standard touchstone, a.k.a. Syd's Floyd. Is this a good thing? Not from where I'm standing, unfortunately; you really can have too many weebling, Pothead Pixie-type voices. No, really; you can. After a 1997 demo, a four-track EP and a track on a Ptolemaic Terrascope compilation, the band apparently put some tracks up on their website for (free?) download, eight of which have been compiled onto a 1999 bootleg CD, along with some of their earlier material. Bootleg? Well, I've made no provision for sample bootlegs and, anyway, since the CD inner states 'from MP3 collection at web site', that makes them technically 'released', at least in my book. If they wrote more material like the gentle Alibi and Cubic Zirconia Smile and less like the lysergic tedium of Bikes (enough mushrooms, already) and Body, the happier I might be, but then, the band are making music for themselves and can do anything they like, so what does my opinion matter? Mellotron? I've got the band listed as having used one on their eponymous 2003 release, but, going by the strings on Lipse Of Marchpane and the flutes on Sea Of Me, I'm far from convinced that I'm going to hear a real one when I finally get my hands on a copy. Could be wrong, but I'm sure I heard some 'eight second-plus' notes on the former. Anyway, do you need to hear this? If you take loads of drugs and love those Terrascope compilations, then yes. Otherwise...

Lazybatusu  (US)

Novogiorno  (2002,  27.08)  *½
QaF**T  (2003,  24.23)  *½

Discogs' 'style' markers for NYC-based Italians Lazybatusu include 'deep house, future jazz, downtempo', but, for this listener, it's all club music and club music of the most mindless variety at that. Yes, I'm an old fart. No, I don't care. This is fucking dreadful. Four different mixes on one 12" = 4 × the pain. Half a star extra for Alejandro Santos' flute playing. Simone Giuliani, a.k.a. "4MuLA" may very well be credited with Mellotron, but those are barely even samplotron strings. More of the same on the following year's QaF**T, featuring a voice sample of some cockney geezer commenting that, "It's quite a fucking thing". No. No, it isn't.

Le Concorde  (US)

Universe & Villa  (2005,  52.25)  *½
Suite  (2007,  18.54)  **

Le Concorde, a.k.a Stephen Becker, Ph.D.'s (hey! Diggin' the education!) debut, Universe & Villa, is undeniably clever, albeit in the kind of way that makes you want to stick pins in the artist's eyes, as does said artist's wispy voice. The album's beyond-twee, '80s-esque indie pop 'features' light-as-air compositions that sound as if they were written by committee, not to mention synth sounds so bad that I wonder whether someone dug out an ageing Yamaha DX-7 for the recording. Ed Tinley's credited with Chamberlin, presumably referring to the block-chord strings on I Will Go To My Grave Wanting You To Love Me. Fail. 2007's Suite EP is marginally less appalling, to the point where closing ballad Lullaby For Dollface is actually quite acceptable. David Gamson's Mellotron, however, is nonexistent.

Maxime Le Forestier  (France)

Restons Amants  (2008,  37.43)  ***

Bruno "Maxime" Le Forestier has not only had a near-forty year career, but, unlike many of his sadder contemporaries, makes no attempt to hide his advancing years. Yes, folks, it's called dignity. 2008's Restons Amants is his umpteenth album, a perfectly good singer-songwriter effort, without especially standing out musically, which is probably to miss the point. Better tracks include opener L'Ère Étrange, which sets Le Forestier's stall out unequivocally and the inventive guitar work on La Meute Et Le Troupeau, but nothing here made this listener squirm. Vincent Mougel plays a nice samplotron flute part Sur Deux Tons.

Le Weekend  (US)

It Can't Be Youth  (2016,  37.46)  **

Le Weekend (ugh) hail from one of America's centres of artistry, North Carolina's Chapel Hill, making it all the sadder that It Can't Be Youth is terrible landfill-indie. Anything listenable? Brief instrumental Wolf Weekend, perhaps. Bob Wall plays sampled-sounding 'Mellotron' flutes on A Wind Through Paper, while Robert Biggers (White Octave) adds a not-very-Mellotronic string line to From Those Who Meant Nothing To Those Who Mean Business.

Leaf Rapids  (Canada)

Lucky Stars  (2015,  46.19)  **½

Leaf Rapids are the husband-and-wife duo of Keri and Devin Latimer, both members of Nathan, whose debut, Lucky Stars, is, essentially, a country album, better tracks including Vulture Lullaby, the spaghetti-westernisms of Agent Of The Night and their six-minute version of Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World. Producer Steve Dawson plays Mellotron, or does he? I've been less than fully convinced by his previous 'Mellotron' work and this album drives the final nail into the 'authentic' coffin. The vibes on the title track are far too clean, so into samples it goes. Well, a Nashville-recorded, yet all-Canadian country album, well done, yet hard going for non-fans.

Dylan LeBlanc  (US)

Cast the Same Old Shadow  (2012,  46.28)  **½

Dylan LeBlanc's career began in his early teens; he was only twenty-two when he released Cast the Same Old Shadow, having already worked his way through several bands. While technically country, it's more a singer-songwriter album of the most mournful kind, a 'listen to in one hit' record, as against a 'highlights' one. Ben Tanner's 'Mellotron'? "...I got this mellotron that had all these recorded sounds. The device actually has recorded voices, recorded strings... So it's actual strings that you are hearing, but it's played on a mellotron." It's sampled.

Ben Lee  (Australia)

Ripe  (2007,  43.04)  *½

Ben Lee is an Aussie singer-songwriter at the 'extremely wussy' end of the spectrum, loosely comparable to, say, Pete Yorn and similar horrors. 2007's Ripe is his sixth solo album post- his early career in Noise Addict and is... well, suffice to say that it made me grind my teeth in places and you'll probably get a good idea of just how insipid this nonsense really is. I was hoping the occasional lyric might catch my ear (What Would Jay-Z Do? had potential), but no. Nic Jones plays samplotron, with background strings on American Television. Why do I bother? Why? Answers on the back of a used circuit diagram for a Mellotron motor speed controller to the usual address.

Rita Lee  (Brazil)

3001  (2000,  49.54)  ***
Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar  [a.k.a. Bossa'n Beatles]  (2001,  39.58)  ***

Rita Lee (ex-Os Mutantes) used a Mellotron on her 1974 release, Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade, but by the time, twenty-six years later, Lee finally uses the sound again, it seems to be only in sampled form. 2000's 3001 is a passable modern Latin pop album, but nothing to get too excited about, frankly. 'Mellotron' flutes on Cobra, one of the album's better tracks. 2001's Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar [a.k.a. Bossa'n Beatles] is Lee's Beatles covers project, tackling their songs in both English and Portuguese, mostly in a vaguely Latin style. Whether or not you like what she's done to them, the quality of the material is, of course, impeccable and the whole thing's done to perfection. The samples here are a bit more obvious, with flutes on With A Little Help From My Friends, All My Loving, Minha Vida and In My Life, all used well. Shame she couldn't have found a real one, really. (Or is it??!).

Russ Lee  (US)

Words in Time  (2000,  45.30)  **½

Russ Lee's Words in Time is probably best described as pop/soul, harmless enough, for a Christian album (!), with the odd interesting moment like the subtle semitone key-change in Free Fall, but it failed to engage my attention for long, I'm afraid. Glenn Rosenstein plays background samplotron strings on opener Live What I Believe.

The Lees of Memory  (US)

Soft Places/Within a Dream II 7"  (2015)  **½
Unnecessary Evil  (2016,  38.39)  **½

American indie darlings Superdrag finally ground to a halt in 2013, John Davis and Brandon Fisher formed The Lees of Memory, more shoegaze than mainstream indie. Their third (?) single, Soft Places, sits firmly at the rocky end of the genre, although the very indie-ish repetition on the 'B' quickly becomes tiresome. As far as Davis' 'Mellotron' goes, the distant strings on the 'A' just... aren't. The following year's full-lengther, their second, Unnecessary Evil, proves to be more of the same, unsurprisingly, many of its tracks dreary and overlong, although better efforts include the propulsive Artificial Air and closer Look Away. The 'Mellotron' is, again, clearly nothing of the sort, the background strings on No Power and the upfront ones on Squared Up having none of the presence of a real machine.

Leevi & the Leavings  (Finland)

Turkmenialainen Tyttöystävä  (1993,  38.48)  **½
Rakkauden Planeetta  (1995,  48.26)  **½
Kerran Elämvssä  (1998,  46.33)  **½
Hopeahääpäivä  (2003,  44.08)  **½

Leevi & the Leavings began their twenty-five year career way back in 1978, 1993's Turkmenialainen Tyttöystävä (Girlfriend From Turkmenistan) being their tenth release. I'm not sure what I expected, but this is relatively harmless, yet weak-as-water folk-influenced pop/rock, the Finnish-language lyrics clearly taking precedence over the music. If there's a 'best track', it's the brief, instrumental Muurahaisen Munat, but the bulk of the album is most unlikely to appeal to listeners outside the band's home audience. Although the band sometimes credited not just 'Mellotron', but 'Mellotron M400' on their releases, I'm reliably informed (thanks, Juho) that they always used samples. Well, listening to this, you ain't kidding... The nearest this gets to anything even vaguely Mellotronic is some vague string and choir sounds that really could come from almost anything. '93 was extremely early in the day for Mellotron samples (eMu's Vintage Keys module was the only commercial sample set available at the time), so I doubt if they're even using those.

Two years on, Rakkauden Planeetta adds a rather unwelcome electro influence, notably on opener Rei Ban Bombay, although, for example, Sunnuntaiksi San Franciscoon has more of a Byrds vibe about it, the remainder of the album veering between these two competing styles. Riina Silpoja's 'Mellotron 400'? Surely not the strings on Takaisin Hiekkalaatikkoon? '98's Kerran Elämvssä returns to their tried'n'tested formula, with what I presume are samplotron strings on Eldorado. Really? 2003's Hopeahääpäivä is more of the same, if not even duller than before. Erik Kääriäinen's 'M400' (this is bloody cheeky, isn't it?) turns out to be nothing of the sort, of course. I mean, the strings on Lahopää-Liisa? Or Matkalla Omiin Hautajaisiin? Or the flute line on Sandy? I think not. What can I say? Don't bother.

Sonia Leigh  (US)

1978 December  (2011,  41.35)  **½

Sonia Leigh is a mainstream country artist, although her fifth album, 2011's 1978 December (her birth month) has enough rock input to avoid the full Nashville, coincidentally making it slightly more palatable to the average Planet Mellotron reader. Better tracks include poppy opener Ain't Dead Yet, the lyrically vicious My Name is Money and the vaguely rocky Ribbon Of Red, although country hoedown Bar is slightly unnecessary. Clay Cook plays distant samplotron strings on the closing title track.

Leiner & Hrnjak  (Croatia)

Viša Sila  (2010,  43.19)  **½

Croatians Boris Leiner and Mišo Hrnjak were two thirds of '80s Yugoslav new wave trio Azra, so it's no great surprise that their third album, 2010's Viša Sila, features an eclectic mix of styles, from reggae-lite opener Kralj Birtije (and several other tracks) through the '80s hard rock of Došla Sam Vam Japa Dimo to the folky new wave pop (!) of the title track. Best track? Probably one of Došla Sam Vam Japa Dimo, odd little folk ditty Curica or pleasant instrumental closer Vinjeta. Jurij Novoselić plays Mellotron flutes on Vrela, with a line following the pop/reggae guitar melody.

Josiah Leming  (US)

Angels Under Cover  (2008,  21.23)  **

Angels Under Cover was Josiah Leming's third EP, an insipid indie/singer-songwriter crossover effort. David Kosten's 'Mellotron' is inaudible.

Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies  (Netherlands)

Earth Air Spirit Water Fire  (2013,  44.47)  ***½

Selim Lemouchi emerged from the ashes of the fêted Devil's Blood, apparently carrying on in reasonably similar fashion in his solo work. Earth Air Spirit Water Fire is an ambitious project, a combination of various forms of progressive and stoner metal, at its best on the choral The Ghost Of Valentine and lengthy closer Molasses. Downsides? The 'la-la-la' backing vocals on opener Chiaroscuro are a distraction and I'm not convinced by the lead voice on Molasses. But I quibble. Milko Bogaard's 'Mellotron'? No more than some high, background samplotron strings on Molasses.

Lenka  (Australia)

Lenka  (2008,  39.00)  **½

Lenka (Kripac) occasionally comes across as a less offensive Aussie version of Lily Allen, although most of the material on her eponymous debut is less feisty and more blandly mainstream. Lenka isn't actually an offensive album, just a rather dull one, but then, it isn't aimed at me, but at her teenage girl fans, I'd imagine, with titles like Dangerous And Sweet and Live Like You're Dying. Mike Elizondo plays samplotron on Knock Knock, but only just, with a deep background string part than only becomes even slightly apparent at the end of the song.

Korby Lenker  (US)

Korby Lenker  (2014,  31.59)  **½

It's devilishly difficult to find an accurate discography for Korby Lenker, it seems, but I think his eponymous 2014 release is his sixth full-lengther. Korby Lenker is an album of two halves, one kind-of good, one kind-of not. Material such as If I Prove False To You, Lovers Are Fools and April May all have a melancholy folk edge to them, while he manages not to ruin Neil Young's Heart Of Gold, even if covering it seems a little redundant, but the vocal line in Forbidden Fruit made me gnash my teeth in fury, although Gotta Do, Got To Be More and the ukulele-fuelled My Little Life are only medium-enraging. Tim Lauer allegedly plays Mellotron on the album, but the chordal flutes on Gotta Do really aren't cutting the mustard, I'm afraid. Despite a handful of reasonable tracks, the overall balance tips towards 'avoid'.

Sean Lennon  (US)

Alter Egos  [OST]  (2013,  45.16)  ***

Sean Lennon acted in and soundtracked 'superhero comedy' Alter Egos, his accomplished, frequently noir-ish compositions and arrangements working well even without the visuals. Of course, this isn't for everyone, often sounding more like a record made in the pre-long-player days of the '40s than anything remotely contemporary, although the electronica of Fridge Walks and skronky New York-ness of The Dance Part 2 stand out from the pack. Lennon supposedly plays both Mellotron and Chamberlin on the album, but the only even slightly obvious use is the sampled (Chamby?) vibes on Ms. Unseen.

Martin Léon  (Québec)

Kiki BBQ  (2002,  59.01)  **½

Mostly French-language singer-songwriter stuff, sometimes tipping over into very average pop/rock fare, at its best on the hypnotic, Eastern-flavoured Out In Time and bluesy instrumental closer Moon Grill. Marc de Vinci plays samplotron flutes on J'aime Pas Ça Quand Tu Pleures and the title track, dropping below the instrument's range on the latter, as if to prove a point.

Sondre Lerche  (Norway)

Faces Down  (2001,  53.11)  **½
Two Way Monologue  (2004,  47.35)  **

Sondre Lerche is a Norwegian singer-songwriter who crosses over into the mainstream pop market, going by his debut, 2001's Faces Down. It's not that it's an inherently unpleasant album, but its cheerfulness disguised as misery (well, I know what I mean) becomes an irritant after a few tracks. If the album has a best track, it's probably opener Dead Passengers, but chances are that's only because the irritation hasn't kicked in yet. Worst? Possibly Modern Nature, largely because it's a duet with the entirely tuneless Lillian Samdal, whoever she may be, or neverending closer Things You Call Fate, simply because it's over nine minutes long, for no good reason. Producer H.P. Gundersen plays samplotron on a couple of tracks, with flutes on You Know So Well and Virtue And Wine. It took Lerche three years to follow up with Two Way Monologue, a similarly dull effort in an indie/singer-songwriter vein; in fact, the longer it goes on, the worse it gets, losing half a star 'twixt beginning and end. Guitarist Kato Ådland is credited with Mellotron, but not only is it apparently sampled, but there's precious little of it to be heard anyway, with naught but possible flutes on It's Our Job.

Nolwenn Leroy  (France)

Le Cheshire Cat et Moi  (2009,  38.09)  ***

Le Cheshire Cat et Moi is a rather beautiful, (mostly) French-language singer-songwriter album, at its weakest when Leroy sings in English; her voice seems to suit her own tongue far better. The occasional forays into indie territory could be lost, too, although we'd end up with a half-hour album at that rate. Teitur (Lassen)'s credited Mellotron on Cauchemar can only be those non-Mellotronic cellos.

Lesbian  (US)

Power Hôr  (2007,  62.17)  ***

Lesbian are so-named because (excuse me if I misquote), "All the cool names had gone" and because it, "Evokes pure, sexually-charged freedom", which certainly shows some serious insight into the sapphic demi-monde, I have to say. I've seen Power Hôr (with or without the ˆ) described as 'a run through the history of heavy metal' or somesuch, but, to my ears, it's merely a modern progressive/death release, written by guys who listened to Iron Maiden a little too much in their youth. The album's four pieces ('songs' seems a little inadequate) average out at around fifteen minutes apiece, moving through vast, distorted soundscapes, punctuated by the occasional (and really, really unnecessary) 'cookie monster' vocal. Please don't do that again, chaps. It's ridiculous and not the slightest bit threatening. This is certainly 'progressive', but it's also a real grind (pun intended) for the non-faithful, but then, Lesbian are directing their energies at their core audience, while the rest of us can go fly a kite. Samplotron from Steve Moore, with background strings on Powerwhorses, Loadbath and Irreversible and possible flutes on Loadbath, but it's hardly a defining feature; I'm reminded of Trettioåriga Kriget's mid-'70s use in a hard rock setting, for some reason.

Lescop  (France)

Lescop  (2012,  42.35)  **½

Mathieu "Lescop" Peudupin's debut album, 2012's Lescop, is a thoroughly modern synthpop effort, mixing sounds and styles from the early '80s with more contemporary ones, for better or worse. Better tracks include sparse opener La Forêt, the vaguely Ultravox-esque Ljubljana and the wondrously-titled Slow Disco, but I wouldn't actually recommend this to first-time round genre fans, I'm afraid. Nicolas "Johnny Hostile" Congé is credited with Mellotron. Where, Johnny, where? The not-very-Mellotronic string notes on closer Le Vent? Doubt it, but it's the closest you're going to get. Guaranteed to be samples, anyway, if it's here at all. Does what it does, then, but is unlikely to excite anyone who loved this stuff forty years ago.

Donna Lewis  (UK)

Now in a Minute  (1996,  45.46)  *½

Donna Lewis is what Kate Bush just might've been like had she been really, really shit. I'm sure she's a lovely lady an' all that and I know full well she's very talented, but her debut album, 1996's Now in a Minute, is barfworthy drivel. How can I describe this? Why bother? OK, here goes anyway: soul-lite crossed with appalling balladry and the aforementioned Kate B's worst moments. There are no best tracks. Although Harvey Jones is credited with 'Mellotron flutes', I suspect you'll need sharper ears than mine to hear them. Maybe they pitchbent them up until they were out of the range of human hearing. Maybe they're just really low in the mix. Maybe you could think about not even attempting to hear this album if you know what's good for you.

Shaznay Lewis  (UK)

Open  (2004,  40.34)  *½

I'd never heard of Shaznay Lewis before I stumbled across a Mellotronic reference to her sole solo album, 2004's Open, although she was apparently regarded as 'the talented one' in Brit girly-group All Saints, which perturbs me as to the collective talents of the other members. Basically, the album consists of typical mid-'00s dance-pop with no redeeming features, which tells you everything you need to know about it. Noted pop producer Rick Nowels (Mel C/Dido/Ronan Keating) adds samplotron flutes to Mr. Weatherman and distant choirs to Nasty Boy, complete with its River Deep, Mountain High chorus rip-off.

Sylvie Lewis  (UK)

Tangos & Tantrums  (2005,  39.58)  ***½
Translations  (2007,  36.55)  ***

Ex-pat Brit Sylvie Lewis has connections with Sondre Lerche and Richard Swift, amongst others, the latter producing her first two albums. The first, 2005's Tangos & Tantrums, is a decent singer-songwriter effort, replete with jazzy touches, highlights including All His Exes, the faux-Arabic strings on Conversation Piece and, above all, My Rival, featuring Lewis sounding particularly British. Frank Lenz plays samplotron, with a smooth string part on When I Drink, possibly underlaid with vibes. The follow-up, 2007's Translations, is another perfectly acceptable, slightly jazzy singer-songwriter effort, albeit with fewer standout tracks; those of you/us not into the style probably aren't going to get much from it. Swift on samplotron, with strings on opener Starsong, Chamberlin solo male voice on Just You and (and I'm pushing the boat out with this one) vibes on closer Your Voice Carries.

Lykke Li  (Sweden)

Youth Novels  (2008,  44.48)  ***
I Never Learn  (2014,  33.13)  ***

Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson's first album, 2008's Youth Novels, is a quiet, slightly haunted record that probably loosely fits under the 'indie' umbrella, while being nowhere near that simplistic or derivative. Various influences are displayed, including that catch-all 'alt.rock', electronica and folk, amongst others. Best tracks? This Trumpet In My Head stands out for me, but nothing here actually offends. John Eriksson plays background samplotron cellos on Time Flies. Her third album, I Never Learn, has little in common with her debut, being a classic 'breakup album', all swooning melancholy and sparse arrangements. Its chief fault, as has been noted by several reviewers, is its relentless, monopaced misery; all the best breakup albums have something about them to lighten the atmosphere, but we're denied that relief in this case. The opening title track makes the most effective use of Li's influences, Gunshot is reasonably melodically interesting and closer Sleeping Alone seems to encapsulate the album's modus operandi in a single track. Producer Björn Yttling and Greg Kurstin are both credited with Mellotron, but it doesn't seem likely that we're hearing a real machine. The string line and/or background choirs on I Never Learn? The cello-ish sound on Sleeping Alone? I don't think so. More variety wouldn't go amiss next time. Lose the 'weeping widow' look, too.

Annbjørg Lien  (Norway)

Baba Yaga  (1999,  49.32)  ****
Khoom Loy  (2012,  45.55)  ***½

Annbjørg Lien released her first record in 1983, at the age of twelve (!), but was in her late teens when her first album appeared. Lien sings and plays the Hardanger fiddle, the hardingfele, so it's no great surprise that her music is heavily informed by Nordic folk, although it has many contemporary touches, both instrumentally and in the arrangements. Baba Yaga is only her second album under her own name, an appealing combination of folk melodies and rock instrumentation, without doing that 'folk metal' thing that seems to have taken off in the region recently. It's difficult to pinpoint standout tracks, although Wackidoo may appeal to progheads, with its blatant ELP homage, on top of the album title's Pictures at an Exhibition reference. Bjørd Ole Rasch plays supposed Mellotron, with background strings on the title track, a polyphonic flute part at the end of Old Larry and choirs on Ritual, most likely all sampled. Many years on, 2012's Khoom Loy shows Lien's folk roots undinished, although the rock element seems to've largely disappeared; this is folk-pop, more the former than the latter. Highlights? Eastern-flavoured opener Tareq, Gode Gut and beautiful closer Psalm. Rasch on 'Mellotron' again: those background chordal flutes on Natten? Non.

Lieutenant  (US)

If I Kill This Thing We're All Going to Eat for a Week  (2015,  37.55)  **

Lieutenant are Foo Fighters/Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel's solo project, which, going by 2015's If I Kill This Thing We're All Going to Eat for a Week, is mainstream indie, dragged down yet further by Mendel's characterless voice. In all honesty, I can't even conjure up a passable song or two, although closer Lift The Sheet is marginally less tedious than everything else; this is dreary, indie-by-numbers nonsense, although I'm sure it has an audience somewhere. Toshi Kasai is credited with Mellotron, but the vague strings on The Place You Wanna Go, Believe The Squalor and Artificial Limbs leave me thinking, 'You have to be joking!' I mean, they don't even sound much like Mellotron samples. Why do artists even bother pretending they used one when they quite manifestly didn't? Pointless.

Toby Lightman  (US)

Bird on a Wire  (2006,  50.50)  **

2006's Bird on a Wire is Toby Lightman's second album, to which I can only say, I do hope her debut's better, although I rather doubt it. This is an unappealing mash-up of modern singer-songwriter stylings and R&B, with country tinges here and there, all of which adds up to a tediously mainstream record with few redeeming features. In fact, the only ones I can think of are Lightman's pleasant (if undemanding) voice and the use of vintage keyboards, including Hammond, Wurlitzer and, of course, (alleged) Mellotron. Bill Bottrell plays the samplotron, but barely, with nothing obvious apart from a brief string part on closer Good Find.

Like Wendy  (Netherlands)

Homeland  (2003,  50.13)  **

Like Wendy apparently coalesced from a drinking club; the only thing I have to say is: you can tell. A duo for most of their career, by 2003's Homeland, they'd contracted to effectively Bert Heinen's solo project, playing typical neo-prog with the occasional Genesis influence. The album doesn't start too badly, but second track in, Back To Earth, is pure neo-prog nonsense, from where it never really recovers, the lengthy title track being possibly the worst thing here, mainly due to taking longer to finish. The 'Mellotron' on most tracks is quite clearly sampled, with murky choirs opening the album, repeating intermittently throughout The Crossing Cloud, flutes and choir on Back To Earth and various combination of flutes, choir and strings on just about every other track. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but Homeland is exactly the kind of album that gives modern progressive rock a bad name, combining pretentiousness with an inability to write anything interesting or at all unusual in fairly equal measures. The grotty Mellotron samples don't hep this album's cause, but it was never going to get a particularly high rating.

Lilacs & Champagne  (US)

Lilacs & Champagne  (2012,  35.59)  ***
Danish & Blue  (2013,  40.26)  ***

Lilacs & Champagne consist of two members of Grails, although this project's sample-based approach has little in common with the parent band. Although several instruments are credited, it's hard to tell how much is actually being played and how much a skillful assemblages of samples, which is probably the idea. There isn't much to choose between these two albums, although my preference is for the odd tracks where the duo slip into a kind of desert-rock thing, temporarily leaving the sampledelica behind. Alex Hall's Mellotron? Isn't.

Pierrick Lilliu  (France)

Besoin d'Espace  (2005,  41.46)  *½

Besoin d'Espace is an appalling album of French-language 'transcendent rock', or Muse-lite, to the rest of us, at its least ghastly on closer Là Haut. This is really, really bad. Michel-Yves Kochmann's 'Chamberlin'? What, the flutes on Bretagne Dédicace? Seriously?

Limblifter  (Canada)

Bellaclava  (2000,  47.51)  **½

Limblifter began as Kurt and Ryan Dahle's Age of Electric side-project, gradually taking over as their main band before themselves splitting. 2000's Bellaclava was their second album (of three), an indie/powerpop crossover, better tracks including Ariel Vs. Lotus, mainly for its bassline and Come On Down, although I couldn't really claim that any of it's that exciting, frankly. Dahle plays alleged Mellotron, while Richard Sera plays equally alleged Mellotron and Chamberlin, with background strings on Pregnant and slightly more upfront ones at the end of Tankhog and on Bullring, the MkII 'moving strings' on the last-named being the sample giveaway.