Angels of Light

We Are Him

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    8
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On Angels of Light's fifth album, leader Michael Gira offers arty Americana-like tunes that aren't too far removed from Nick Cave in the way they're both written and sung. Gira isn't as strong, or scary, a singer as Cave; in fact, at times he sounds a little like a latter-day counterpart to Lee Hazlewood with some Leonard Cohen thrown in, especially on the most country-oriented of the songs, like "This Is Not Here." But certainly this is much more tuneful and subdued an affair than many would expect from the former band behind Swans, the noisy post-punk group for which Gira will probably always be most noted and notorious. That doesn't mean it's an average alternative rock record, as Gira brings a dry, sardonic edge to his vocals, and still occasionally leans on grinding rhythms to drive his points home. More often than not, however, these are reflective if fairly downbeat songs with a slight country-folk feel which, combined with his slightly drawling elongated vocal style, sometimes make it seem like a record that should have come out of the Southwest, not Brooklyn. It's not all in that vein; "Sunflower's Here to Stay" is surely as happy and poppy a tune as Gira's likely to come up with, indicating there might be a Kinks and early Pink Floyd fan underneath all that art damage. Judicious use of female backup vocals also lightens the mood, though even the brighter tracks are still something of a candy-coated poison pen given the dark sentiments they often cloak. Even in this mellowed state, Gira's still never going to be a majority taste, but Angels of Light come up with a thoroughly respectable and diversely arranged vehicles for his vision on We Are Him, traipsing through an array of interesting moods without diluting the leader's offbeat visions.

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