Bella Union – September 7th
The endlessly ambiguous category of ‘alternative rock’ has become, to say the least, over-saturated in recent years. Through the incredible swelling of the UK’s independent music scene its banks have burst with exasperating mediocrity, meaning one really has to get their hands dirty rooting around in it to uncover the glowing gems – gems such as artists like Lanterns On The Lake – that do and will always glimmer within it. With that in mind, it isn’t all that often, really, that one dives into a piece of contemporary alternative music and feels truly humbled by it, which makes those few-and-far-between releases that make you think ‘well, shut me up’ such a treat to be on the receiving end of.
With their second album, the Newcastle band have honed an orchestrated guitar-band sound that a great many artists have tried to perfect for decades, dipping their toes into the vast waters of post-rock, ballad-rock, traditional pop, grand cinematic scores and minimal, emotional, neo-classical serenades. The band’s capacity to ‘do’ epic songwriting properly is palpable in the sheer magnitude of the album’s opening track, ‘Elodie’; a song built on fluctuation between apocalyptic instrumentation and masterfully administered vocals, at once both comforting and making one green-eyed over the ability to create something on a scale such as this.
That balance is key to this record; in the same way that the Pixies were masters of dynamics, Lanterns On The Lake are true maestros when dealing with the blending of delicacy and terrifying might. The album’s lead eponymous single, awash with both poetry and melody, is stitched tightly together by a rare understanding of songwriting, in terms of balancing accessibility and beauty.
As a band often lumped with that troublesome term ‘post-rock’, Lanterns on the Lake have created a record that really differs from huge post-rock releases of the past – in that, really, it’s so much more. Sure, the mammoth drum sounds, crashing cymbals, screaming guitar soaked in reverb and ever-climbing, whirlwind melodies are there, but they’re there as embellishments; like rich butter icing spread over a supremely generous, many-layered cake; enough so that when the band do break into something that could arguably be labeled ‘post-rock’ – the magnificent piano and string-laden melodies that close to ‘The Ghost That Sleeps In Me’, for example – it feels far more like the pivotal twist in a brave plot than it does something loud and garish to mark a climax.
It’s this ability to adorn their writing with real scope that makes Until The Colours Run such a special release. With the know-how to properly utilise intricate dynamics, velvet strings and heavenly vocals atop a foundation of exemplary grit, Lanterns on the Lake have successfully created the huge, stupendously grand modern rock album that so many bands have attempted – and have done so with such finesse that I reckon it is unlikely to be topped anytime soon.
Live: Bush Hall – October 22nd