Lampland is the recording project of New York-based songwriter Tommy Bazarian. An obsession with dramatic, country-tinged songwriting and ‘90s aesthetics come together on Dry Heat, his debut for Park The Van Records.
“I was searching for this heartbreaking, ‘70s feeling,” Bazarian says of the album’s origins. To find it, he immersed himself in Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, and Dusty Springfield hits. He would listen to “Jolene” and “Dreams” over and over, just trying to grasp the feeling of the way the chorus was sung—the pleasure and heartbreak that mix in the melody and vocal delivery.
But in the spirit of alt-innovators like Beck and Pavement, the songs on Dry Heat warp their rootsy influences as much as they honor them. The production is often slanted and fuzzed-out, full of blitzed guitars, midnight synths, and basement pianos. Bazarian’s voice is captivating, owing more to Elliott Smith than his ‘70s loves. His delivery flips between reverence and mischievousness, indulging in that Dolly Parton emotion, surrendering to it, and playing with it in equal measure.
The lyrics on Dry Heat are intricate and unforgettable. On standout track “Newborn Feelings,” a character locks himself in the bathroom at a party in an adobe house in Arizona. He stares out the window at the desert, and remembers the long saga of a relationship that is now over. “I found your lipstick / In my bag / Too soon to throw it out / Too late to give it back,” he sings. The influence of David Berman’s Silver Jews is clear, as the lyrics toe the line between humor and hopelessness. “I touch the telephone / And I try to make it ring.”
Dry Heat was brought to life by engineers Nate Mendelsohn (Frankie Cosmos, Katie Von Schleicher) and Philip Weinrobe (Adrianne Lenker, Deerhoof). On “Flowers in the Rain,” the album’s darkest and most bewitching track, their production takes center stage. The song hints at a story of two teenagers, alone in a rental house somewhere near the Great Lakes. It captures a nervous excitement, on the knife’s edge between something amazing and something awful happening. The arrangement evokes one of Elliott Smith’s later compositions, something off of XO, where the hushed tension could give way to a deluge of drums and guitars at any second.
Bazarian works in public radio, and at the time of making the album was a producer at the WNYC arts and culture show Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen. He wrote the songs that would make up Dry Heat on weekends and nights after work, often after conducting interviews with some of his favorite musicians and writers. The album’s title is a nod to his favorite Velvet Underground album, White Light/White Heat. It’s an imagined escape from a humid New York summer. Above all, it’s a promise to make a certain kind of warmth radiate from the speakers.