“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.” Now what the hell does this maxim of famed post-modern thinker Gilles Deleuze have to do with a quintet of post-rockers from Louisville, Kentucky? Well in the case of their debut Bright as Your Night Light — everything and so much more.
Ladies and gentleman, this is what an album should sound like in 2011. The operative word here being album; a structured setting for music to embody and permeate. This structure, or in Deleuzian terms “land surveying and cartography”, is very cleverly constructed inside that part of your brain that deciphers what’s “nice” and what’s life-altering. If opening track “Champagne and Peaches” doesn’t register in the latter part of your cerebrum and sends chills down your spine, then you may want to reboot your CPU. Cory Wayne’s ethereal yet sardonic pipes teleport you to some strange beautiful place where all those sub-conscious sounds you heard while floating in utero. They are not afraid to play Jenga with a crystalline pop palace; constantly reconfiguring the lines of flight darting across their musical radars without losing the beat they targeted to begin with.
The title track, which we streamed from the very beginning, is easily one of the best pop songs to surface this year. Besides the intricate and intense chorus, they know how to play the quiet loud game better, in their second year of existence, than most bands could ever hope to. The symmetry displayed between the opening bars (lo-fi almost 8K worth of bass sound) and the closing coda (hi-fi bass guitar with drive) shows immeasurable creativity in a song that’s bursting at the gills with it.
“Nails to Scratch With” commences with a dizzying oscillating synth that’s quickly overtaken by a chunky blues-rock guitar and pounding kickdrum. A petulant and scratchy Wayne pushes the song in an almost Latin samba direction, all while retaining the pulsing energy that guitarists Stuart Phelps and Chris Snow awaken through the last half of the song. They could have predictably ridden this sugar high throughout the rest of their debut, but fortunately chose to show their saccharine sides on “Get Left in the Dark”. Wayne can take rather ordinary lines like “I thought I saw you standing with a green candle in your hand” and “I’m looking logical surfaces”, unravel the subliminal wordplay and turn them into Shakespearean sonnets.
For anyone who has gone on a Vitamin A binge, “Kale” might be your anthem. Sure his references to the bad taste in his mouth and pouring tears might refer to Brassica oleracea, but after withstanding the torrential downpour of thrashing axes toward the end of the song, it might have a lot more to do with the bland state of today’s recycled pop music.
If any of you share the incurable guilty pleasure of adoring The Eagles, actually scratch that..., if you dig down-and-out punch-drunk ballads in general, “Downtown Lament” will surely find its way into many a chick flick in coming years. Amidst the cozy lap steel and muffled toms you will surely ask yourself, “How can I feel so high about being so low?”. Wayne reassures us by repeating, “Don’t be afraid” with increasing intensity until this digital opus concludes.
It’s a bit scary to see a band release this fully realized masterpiece so early in their career. Scary in the sense that they might fall into the same sophomore slump that has plagued nearly every promising act of the past decade (the list is rather long). What gives me hope that they won’t ensnare themselves in this self-fulfilling prophecy is the fact that they are very aware of themselves and don’t let their own sound suffocate them, but instead use it as a vehicle for the “mapping of countries yet to come”. Regardless of their future endeavors, this one is timeless — a template for those to follow and never quite replicate.