Thursday, April 12, 2012

AU - Both Lights (2012)

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Portland multi-instrumentalist duo AU is one of  those bands whose name I saw floating around here and there (among other bloggers mostly) before I decided to give them a shot. I even saw a concert poster for a Brooklyn show they were doing earlier this year and yet with all that, it still took the intense enthusiasm of Sam at Middle Class White Noise for me to put them at the very top of my listening list.

AU is one of those bands who music you don't realize you were looking for until you find it. It hits all the right spots and leaves you totally satiated but ever eager for more. AU's Both Lights at moments is so startlingly familiar and reminiscent of other bands you may have heard that it's hard to explain just why you like it. I mean, how do you possibly sell an album to other people that seems a sort of musical Frankenstein of favorite bands of yours? Why would you recommend a band that recalls other bands rather than the recalled bands themselves? Well, AU's appeal is perhaps in this deep sense of familiarity and how they invoke these various favorite musical moments without sounding like a blatant rip off of them. In doing so, it becomes quite clear that these moments are purely coincidental (Luke Wyland really can't be held accountable for his vocal similarity to Milagres' Kyle Wilson) .  

Opening track "Epic" plays not unlike a Collection of Colonies track - with it's rock instrumentals that just build on top of each other until the climatic release. "Solid Gold" with it's sweltering burst of sunny tropical pop is a blend of the careful composition of Lord Huron that barrels headlong into the African-invoking style of Beep's "Mbira" with brass really helping to drive the whole thing home.

AU belongs to a group that's among my favorite to discuss - the type of band where explaining their sound calls for pause and reflection. You can't just slap a genre labeling on them and be done with it. As easy as it may be to pick out the various musical callbacks, there's that kind of "it is but it isn't" aspect to each and all of them. And when you really listen to the album, it becomes apparently that the vast majority of their tracks exist outside of these comparisons - You also can't refer to them as a hodge-podge of all your favorite bands of the moment because tracks like "Crazy Idol", "OJ", and "The Veil" are noticeably distinctive enough for you not  to try and place where you heard them before. In fact, outside of "Epic", "Solid Golid", and faint hints of "Get Alive", you can't really finger point exact musical moments. You can argue Dirty Projetor-esque harmonies throughout Both Lights (though really, "Solid Gold" is the most glaring example) but really the Dirty Projectors don't have a monopoly on female harmonies.

Both Lights is an album that's like swimming in a sea of sound - a veritable sunburst of bright, sunny tracks that fully engulf you in it's avalanche of texture. Surprisingly all around appropriate radio-length, each track on Both Lights seems far longer than it's timestamp would have you believe - going into a myriad of unexpected directions that belie their shortness. While still indicative of what you might be able to call AU's characteristic sound, Both Lights is the duo (turned trio with the addition of Holland Andrews) most ambitious record. They manage to strong-arm a bunch of very eclectic musical ideas into a single coherent arch and fill it with layers and layers of rich instrumentation and enjoyable musical moments.  On Both Lights, you want for absolutely nothing: Anything you want is offered up in some way or another there's even things you didn't know you wanted but appreciate when they are given (like the absolute deluge of noise on "Why I Must"). A unexpectedly great release that's no doubt gonna be hard to put down.

Get a taste of AU with this live video of "Solid Gold" as well as two tracks from Both Lights:

Feels Like Home Ep 44 - AU "Solid Gold" from Into The Woods on Vimeo.

AU's Both Lights is available on Spotify as well as all the standard outlets for purchasing truly sweet music.

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