From the lyric “I’d like to invite you… for just a little while…” the listener of Nightlands new Oak Island feels comfortable and on a journey. There’s a fantastic layering of instruments and vocals that is harmonic, full yet light, and overall very exciting. With that aesthetic, the band ushers us into the rest of a truly dynamic and important album.
The lyric in “So Far, So Long” that “we’re making up the words to our own song” seems to fit the somewhat lighthearted approach Nightlands seems to have taken with this album. While they are certainly not taking their own musical complexity lightly, they seem to enjoy performing this music. They, in many ways, embody both sonically and attitudinally what we call “Indie Rock.” The music could be present on a Starbucks coffeehouse mix or a movie soundtrack. There’s something both unique and familiar about what they do.
I am not often negative in these reviews, but I will say some of the clunky sounds intended to create dissonance do not suit my personal taste. That said, I understand that the band undoubtedly included them to create a fuller affect and to contrast with the intricate and stunning vocals. Frankly, the vocals make up for the things I don’t enjoy about the band’s overall sound.
The guitars that open “You’re My Baby” do something spectacular with the hair on the back of your neck. I don’t know how they do it, but the sound is pretty phenomenal. Paying homage to the heyday of psychedelic rock in the 1960s, Nightlands fill the soundscape with a wide variety of interesting sounds. Again, I’m a bit confused with some of the filler sounds, but the vocalists in the group have a real gift for blending.
“Nico” begins with an acoustic guitar, but quickly fills in with a full band sound. It’s a faster paced song, but still quite psychedelic like much of the album. It’s a bit difficult to discern what the band is saying through most of the track, but I daresay that’s intentional. “So It Goes” sounds like a hidden track from a night when the Beach Boys had a bit too much to drink (not unlike “Barbara Ann” for you BB fans out there). What is remarkable about the sound, though, is that their blending is consistently amazing (unlike said BB song). It’s definitely a chill out song. It sounds like something that could have come off of a Pink Floyd album more than anything else. “And so it goes…”
“Born to Love” has some acoustic layering at the beginning that makes it a really fascinating track. The vocals, again, fill the track. It’s probably the best song on the album. It has a nice beat to it that makes it almost hypnotic. You get the sense it would be a great song to vibe out to at a show. The combination of vocals, synth, and eventually horns make the track really pop compared to others on the album. It’s a full sound without the distracting discords heard in other parts of the album.
The track “I Fell in Love with a Feeling” was the first I ever heard from Nightlands and was one of the main reasons I wanted to hear more. It’s quirky and fun, which makes it fit in nicely with the overall sound of the album. It’s got its own share of psychedelic breaks and odd turns in the sound, but the primary sound is a sort of 1970s television show backtrack. It’s pretty sweet, really.
“Other People’s Pockets” and “Looking for Rain” bring the album home with more of the characteristic vocal blending that defines much of the album. There are some intriguing sonic shifts in both songs. While OPP is a bit simpler overall, “Looking for Rain” uses a complicated background percussion in an effort to make the creepily-modified vocals sound a bit more appropriate. All told, these two songs represent a fitting end to the album.
My takeaway is that this album is absolutely a must have for fans of psychedelic rock. People who liked some of the more bizarre tracks on Pink Floyd will really like this. I also think their shows are probably entertaining. What I heard in my initial listen to the band did not fully come through in the full album, but I will say that “Born to Love” is an awesome track that will receive steady rotation from me this summer.