Lem are a Pittsburgh-area “joke-folk” duo that use acoustic instrumentation and pastoral harmonies to deliver witty, irreverent tales of slackerdom and youngish ennui.
Last week, Lem released Just A Bunch Of Demos (2016-2019), which is (surprise surprise!) a collection of iPhone demos recorded over the past few years. Lem’s demos are about as brief as their album cuts, bite-sized exurban ballads that you can enjoy with a Slim Jim and a cup of shit coffee. The vocal interplay between Lemmers Ian Compton and Laurel Wain (who are also members of the prog-folk collective String Machine) is wistful as always, Compton’s drowsy hum laying a foundation for Wain to mottle with feathery glints of harmony, like autumn light peeking through a patch of cirrus clouds. On the haunting “Twin Mattress (Washington Heights),” Wain takes the lead, sighing pensively about driving rain and a mattress with no sheets, a tinny metallic tick and some faint slide guitar providing accompaniment. The song is a like a partially-developed Polaroid from years ago, evocative yet elusive, the faded outline of a memory that may have been happy or sad, you just can’t remember which.
Side note: All proceeds from Just a Bunch Of Demos will be going to The Mr. Roboto Project, a Pittsburgh staple that I’m sure could use some help right now.