Shady Bug don’t just utilize contrast, they revel in it. Lemon Lime, the St. Louis four-piece’s appropriately titled sophomore full-length, is a sweet and sharp sonic confection, each song a push and pull of jagged distortion and rich melodies. The album finds Shady Bug--comprised of guitarist/vocalist Hannah Rainey, guitarist Tom Krenning, drummer Aaron O’Neill, and bassist Chris Chartrand (Todd Anderson plays bass the on this recording)--twisting their brand of noisy, dynamic guitar pop into new directions.
Building on the promise of their 2017 debut, tbh idk, Lemon Lime further sharpens Shady Bug’s sound. “Make It Up” opens the album with a wall of explosive fuzz that barely gives the listener time to acclimate before shifting gears to a shimmering verse of interwoven guitars and Rainey’s warm voice. Her uniquely phrased melodies set the stage for the Lemon Lime’s lyrical explorations of late night hangouts, existential angst, and the poignancy of mundane moments—like the reference to sharing a can of Sprite that lends the record its’ title.
“A lot of these songs are about living in St. Louis,” Rainey explains, “The rent is low but so is minimum wage, so it’s a pretty easy place to live but also an easy place to feel stuck.” Tracks like “Whining” and “Flood Song” lament that stagnation, but also celebrate the charms of city life and the relationships within it—a love/hate also reflected in the battling guitars and rollercoaster volume changes. On “Canada Dry,” O’Neill’s drumming shines as it seamlessly shifts between plaintive and pummeling, while Rainey’s way with words makes even something as innocuous as cell phone screen brightness seem weighty. Absent minded phone habits appear again in the chorus of “Lucky,” as Rainey wonders if her generation is fortunate or not to experience the breakneck pace of the modern world.
On album closer “Flake,” Shady Bug demonstrates how far they’ve come in such a short time, flexing their cohesion as well as their ambitious songwriting. O’Neill and Anderson’s agile rhythm section leads the song’s intricate movements and tempo changes, building to a massive conclusion where Rainey and Krenning’s feedback-drenched guitars collide with a cacophony of saxophones. It’s a stunning ending that captures the effortless balance of sheer beauty and unhinged discord at which Shady Bug excels, and it makes something very clear: Lemon Lime isn’t your average pedal-stomping indie rock album, it’s lightning in a bottle—or perhaps more accurately, lightning in a Sprite can.