Seattle has always been a mecca for alternative music, or for that matter, for any sort of music that puts creativity and honesty on the forefront, so it's just really pleasing to hear another great band coming from the place that gave us Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Jimi Hendrix. Half Light sounds nothing like the artists mentioned, but they sure help keep the reputation of their city up to standards with their unique blend of dream-pop, where straightforward melodies are embellished with a touch of shoe gaze and post-rock textures.
Things to Figure Out features nine songs with a really psychedelic vibe. Half Light often recurs to dissonances and melodic patterns borrowed from middle eastern/Asian folk, truly creating a darker effect on their songs. The vocalist does a really good job at brightening up the sound, giving a pop edge to the music, but still keeping everything interesting and avant-garde, with melodic sensibilities that remind me of artists like Bjork or Sonic Youth. Things to Figure Out is a portrait of a cohesive band with a clear focus on their identity, constructing elaborate, yet instinctive layers of sounds and striving to create a beautiful contrast with the simple, driven rhythm section and the embracing textures built with guitars and synth.
The opener “Mesa” was one of the standouts to me. The song starts with steady kick drum and bass before the band comes together to play a riff that was a bit reminiscent of the song “Spirit of Radio” by Rush. What totally took me by surprise was the chorus which picked up the pace, adding some synths and felt like it almost changed genres but it also felt natural. “The Deep End” didn’t hit me as hard as the first song but I did enjoy the way the synths and guitars were blended.
The next song, “Dream about Simple,” got things back on track. While the nine tracks on the record all form a really smooth set list, “Dream About Simple” remains my personal favorite. It is built on a really cool, almost hypnotic drum pattern, and enriched by beautiful lap steel guitar lines and a clever use of vocal harmonies. Dayna Loeffler seemed to really hit the right tone for the song as well as the melody itself was really catchy.
The arrangement on “Emerald City” fared better than some of the later tracks. The guitars were clean, drenched in reverb and created a good amount of space for the vocals to sound their best. There were also breathy backing vocals that added to the floating atmosphere. Loeffler took a break from lead vocals on “Fractions” but she does do some harmonizing. I would have loved to have heard a bit more harmonizing on the album like they did on this song because it worked quite well. The next three songs were hit and miss for me before they close with “Nothing At All,” which is a really good song and I loved the anthemic chorus. While the band still has a couple of rough spots there is a surplus of talent here with great ideas and well-crafted songs. Half Light’s latest release Things to Figure Out combines dream-pop, retro, rock and other genres that should appeal to a wide audience.
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