Friday, November 25, 2011

Lightmusic - "Remain Unshared" (Demo) EP - Album Review

Musically speaking, Micah Lewis (guitar / vocals), Zach Mabry (drums) and Stevie Kugelberg (bass) march to a different drummer. As Lightmusic they channel so many genres and musical tones that their music is hard to describe. I caught them at a local show opening up for Future Islands and their set was on the far opposite side of mainstream. The EP Remain Unshared (Demo) features songs that contain many surprising melodic twists and compositional turns (as well as a different drummer - Greg Brown). The songs freely shift genres and tones. They are supremely dynamic with sounds that ebb and flow between trancy sparkly guitar and explosive avant garde art rock. It is like the compositions are passive aggressive or bipolar. Throw some strangely obtuse lyrics in this mix and you have sounds that can both perplex and amaze.

Case in point: "Genius Boy" (one of my favorites), starts with pretty picking guitar as bass and drums tightly wrap around Micah Lewis singing in an almost late 40's crooner style, "I saw a bird with no branch she'd given up her nesting and given three red eggs... they are gonna grow and kill each other" and later, "I'm jealous of the genius boy... he walks along, he walks along so easy". These punk jazz vignettes, for lack of a better term, are sewn together with more rockish / almost northern California surf country strains. Midway through on the chorus (or recurring refrain) Micah sings, "you'll be loved like a dove" and the rest is magical as the guitar melody takes over and lifts you up out of your seat. The bass, drums and lead work support each other so well not only musically but emotionally. It is downright beautiful stuff, strangely enchanting. Like many of the compositions on Remain Unshared you are left wondering what you just experienced. The lyrics seem to be stream of consciousness or the stuff that fever dreams are made of and the music takes wonderful detours without sounding disjointed.

The first track, "Memories of Anna" also has a diverse and varied landscape but locks into a more solid alternative art rock vibe. The beat and bass is deliciously straight forward and brings to mind bands like The Pixies and early Talking Heads. I absolutely love this song. The vibe it creates feel like that post punk era circa 1978 to 1984. "Leave Me Alone" lulls you into a sleepy cozy state during the intro, "Pick me a color that matches my eyes (2x)... we painted our faces" - and then the chorus jams big with sonically staccato charged guitars. Lightmusic is not content to go back to the first verse progression after the chorus but picks a different one. I don't think I have ever heard this happen before (or was it an early bridge??). Who cares. It is daring and it works. "Mercury" has a languid drug hazy feel limping along like a Lou Reed ballad propelled by tom toms, lazy guitar, sleepy bass and whistled melodies. Micah's vox are soaked in a big room reverb which only adds to the foggy feel. The last track on Remain Unshared is called "Knock Out" and sadly is only ambient sounds and silence.

Remain Unshared (Demo) by Lightmusic is one of the most original and daring (while still thoroughly listenable) albums I have heard in the last 5 years. The fluid sense of style shifting appeals to me and the use of dynamics to push and pull the emotional arc of the songs makes each one feel like a movie of sorts, like there is an interesting story behind all the musical mayhem. Seek out Remain Unshared, push play, close your eyes and enjoy the sounds (and images) coalescing in your brain.

Robb Donker

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