The Lilys’ first single, 1991’s “February 14th,” channels My Bloody Valentine pretty intensely, although there’s a touch of Dinosaur Jr in Kurt Heasley’s croak as well. The next year’s In the Presence of Nothing (a jab at Velvet Crush), on which the lineup included members of Velocity Girl and Suddenly, Tammy!, is even more a product of hero-worship. Songs like “There’s No Such Thing as Black Orchids” and “Tone Bender” could have come straight off Loveless, from the guitar effects to the weird conjunction of chords to the breathy androgyny of Heasley’s vocals. The album also includes a glacial twelve-minute instrumental, “The Way Snowflakes Fall,” and an unlabeled appearance of “Threw a Day” from the first single.
Almost two years passed before the next Lilys release, as the roving East Coast band went through a handful of relocations and a flurry of lineup changes. Sometimes Heasley — the only permanent member-would appear onstage with a six-piece band; sometimes, it would just be him and a drummer. The five-song-plus-noise-doodle EP A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns ditches MBV as a reference point; the band has rediscovered pleasant, straightforward guitar pop. “Any Place I’ve Lived” is the best melody Heasley’s written to date; “Jenny, Andrew, and Me” (a Tsunami reference?) has a clever strummed solo over knotty chords.
Eccsame the Photon Band is a much crazier record, and a much quieter one. Recorded mostly as a duo with Heasley and Harold Evans (of Poole), it consists largely of long, slow, spare songs, with titles like “FBI and Their Toronto Transmitters” and “The Turtle Which Died Before Knowing,” built around spaces and silences — minutes can go by in a track before anything significant happens. Listen carefully, though, and you’ll hear some elegantly twisted superstructures, especially on the album’s centerpiece, the impossibly deliberate “Overlit Canyon (The Obscured Wingtip Memoir).” There are also a couple of not-too-weird pop songs (“The Hermit Crab” and “Radiotricity”) as well as a lovely fake-out ending to the album.