Since childhood, we’re taught to never judge a book by its cover or be so superficial as to make inferences about a person’s character based solely upon their exterior persona. It’s good advice – not making snap judgements about the contents of an article or individual by the first sight one sees – but that doesn’t mean the first thing that potential patrons visually absorb cannot be attractive, interesting or imagination-inspiring. A great example of this line of thought in action can be found in the form of the limited edition pressing of LIGHT // SOUND‘s self-titled debut LP. Each copy of the album is pressed into one of three colors (pink, orange or white) and then packed gently into a polystyrene jacket before being inserted into a wooden sleeve. That’s right, readers – the covers for this album are made of WOOD – specifically, they were made out of floorboards which were reclaimed from houses which were torn down as the city of New Orleans continues to recover from the damage incurred by Hurricane Katrina. The album art and band name are painted on cloth and bolted to the wooden record sleeves. In all of the sixteen years I’ve worked in the press, I can say I’ve never seen anything like it. The package is absolutely fascinating, and it’s perfectly capable of ensnaring the imaginations of those who see it.
Of course, a fascinating or imaginative album cover design does not a great album make, but it is the best vantage from which LIGHT // SOUND is able to inspire interest and fascination, in this case, to get listeners into the right headspace for this music. As a stylus sinks into the A-side of LIGHT // SOUND and “Don’t Hold Me Down” opens the proceedings, the band really forces listeners to come to them. Those listeners will strain to pick up and make sense of the tiny, ambient sounds that are the first on the album (strange, ethereal sounds which resemble feedback and the tide washing over a beach) and it’s because of that they’ll be knocked as though hit in the forehead by the worldly, polyrhythmic beat which comes next. That beat will have listeners’ imaginations piqued, and then all of the other pieces just begin falling together as the song moves along; singer/guitarist Daniel Amedee sings sleepily while playing a distorted electric guitar gently, and casts a perfect spell with lyrics like, “There was somethin’ on my mind/As I rolled around in bed, you have no idea how good it felt to be free again” begin to conjure images of Sebadoh jamming with Danny Michel and Bright Eyes while a tape recorder picks up the results for prosperity.Listeners will find themselves hypnotized and held warmly by the dark, lustrous tones expressed. There’s just something perfectly honed about this initial presentation; while still a little loose-of-ligament like all the best indie recordings, LIGHT // SOUND also betrays an unmissable confidence which implies that luck had nothing to do with how the band comes off here – it’s just one hundred percent talent.
After “Don’t Hold Me Down” sets the tone for the A-side of this album, LIGHT // SOUND‘s A-side spends its remainder further polishing and articulating its own inspiration. First, “Running Wild” tests out a worldbeat percussion before singer Daniel Amedee contrasts it with a wholly deadpan vocal delivery, then the band digs deep into a moodier clime (where the singer just can’t keep himself from sounding intentionally ironic when he yelps out, “One day at a time, we will change the world!”) and then returns to a more impressionist tone with “I Can See You” (which features such salubrious lyrics as, “Let me visit your country, let me sleep in your woods/ If I cross your border, I’ll sleep in your city, I’ll leave you something special behind”) and then closing the side with “Little Love” – a song which balances perfectly subdued vocals and sonics, but still manages to have listeners flipping the record over excitedly when it ends. In that way, the A-side’s energy level is spectacular; LIGHT // SOUND manages to titillate listeners with an energy that is simultaneously collegiate and manic, but makes listeners want to believe in the band too. Now, it’s true that LIGHT // SOUND is not the first band to accomplish something like this (“college rock” bands have been achieving it for decades) but the energy with which they do it here is infectious; this band has never orchestrated something like what they’ve made here before, and it’s exciting to them. That excitement and the transfer of it from LIGHT // SOUND to those listening is what’s capable of inspiring fits of rapture among listeners.
While aspects of the album’s A-side do get carried over to its B-, it’s impossible to miss that it feels like there’s a little more confidence present here from the second “Big Eyes Big Heart” starts the second side’s play. There, Amedee’s guitar part just rolls along smoothly on top of a very spare drum figure, and the singer’s equally easy-rolling vocal just wins hearts effortlessly with lines like “Meet me by the river, I’ll be your family/ I’ve been roaming around for too long, and I’m ready to settle down.”It’s the perfect way to open LIGHT // SOUND‘s second side because it feels like the band has already conquered the obstacles it set out to achieve, and now they’re just doing a victory lap. In that spirit too, the group stirs up some truly “frenetic-in-a-Talking-Heads-kind-of-way” energy with “Born In America,” which feels fantastic in this context and rolls perfectly into “Making Love Making Noise” (which motormouths a little like Billy Joel did in “We Didn’t Start The Fire”) before crashing to a perfectly charmed and cathartic close with “Find The Light Within.” In that end, listeners won’t be able to deny that they’ve heaved a heavy sigh as their record player’s stylus lifts. True, the B-side of LIGHT // SOUND is perfectly engrossing but it doesn’t make for an easy ride. Making one’s way through feels like a great and perfectly gratifying achievement.
Now, having discussed both the album cover as well as the music on the record itself, hopefully readers can grasp why exactly I’m so excited by LIGHT // SOUND, precisely nothing about it (either visually or aurally) is quite like anything I have seen or heard before. Granted, there are bits and pieces which bear a passing resemblance to other albums by other bands (there have to be – we’re still working within the ‘rock’ idiom here), but it is unique and undoubtedly stands completely on its own. That relentless sense of originality coupled with a set of really strong songs makes LIGHT // SOUND a phenomenal debut – coming close to something like this again will be no easy feat, but those who hear this album are guaranteed to be waiting excitedly when the band records another.
LIGHT // SOUND is out now. Buy it here directly from the band on vinyl, cassette, CD or as a digital download: http://wearelightsound.com/store.