Bradley Valentin (vocals) and Yohimbe Sampson’s (guitarist) first performance together was at a party in which they never even practiced before. The story goes that Sampson picked up a guitar and Valentin busted out singing. Let’s all be thankful that this moment of serendipity occurred because the duo who now call themselves Meridian Lights just released an exceptional self-titled album Meridian Lights.
This album isn’t cluttered with a lot of gaudy instrumentation and for the most part revolves around a guitar and vocals although they did tap Jean Shepherd (bass) and Drew Mclean (drums) to help with additional instruments. I’m going to go ahead and say that Bradley Valentin is not a good vocalist but a great vocalist. Not only does he nail every note with ease but also his vocals are so aesthetically pleasing. His delivery seems natural, soulful and soars when they need to. The guitar work while not as immediately striking as the vocals does exactly what it needs to do.
Sampson usually supports Valentin’s vocals but every once in awhile pulls off an impressive guitar solo or riff. The album starts with “Scars and Breaks,” which has the perfect type of energy for an opener. They combine a lead synth, tom drums, bass and guitar to create a culmination of instrumentation that make it feel as if something is going to happen. It’s the opposite of apprehension as you are excited to hear what might be coming next. It leads to the verse, which quickly breaks the instrumentation to only build it back up around the vocals of Valentin.
As much as I enjoyed the vocals on “Scars and Breaks” the second track “OK Better” may have it beat. Valentin’s vocals soar on this track when he sings “ everything is ok but things could get better it feels like its over we got so much time left.” The song simply puts you in a good mood.
The song “Bombs” is the first song that introduces an overt feeling of melancholy. Valentin’s vocals are soulful, heartfelt and spew with emotion. As it progresses the vibe changes and is more upbeat and festive. ”Rodeo” is arguably the highlight of the album. At one point Valentin sings “I will never let go cause I’m alive” and words ring through you as he sings creating the connection that all music ultimately strives for. The energy is immediate, visceral and can be compared to the same feeling I get when I listen to Arcade Fire.
Meridian Lights is a collaboration that works on many levels and this album is a testament to that. Enough said - now go listen.
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