Wan Light singer Krister Svensson's voice is nearly a dead ringer for that of Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue, which means it's also not unlike Neil Young's -- high, reedy, perhaps a little bit of an acquired taste, but surprisingly affective and resonant. The Swedish duo's music also bears out some broader comparisons to those artists, and to California's like-minded Radar Bros., in its power to evoke an expansive sense of moodiness and melancholy that's comforting and gently hopeful rather than despondent, but that's hardly to suggest that Wan Light are imitators in any sense. What sets them apart are the varied and often unexpected ways they go about creating such a mood, which are remarkably eclectic considering the general consistency of affect, and their simple but endearing songwriting, which is unerringly melodic but never feels straightforwardly poppy and upbeat even at its peppiest. Their Labrador debut Let's Wake Up Somewhere Else encompasses earnest, gently drifting ballads ("It Doesn't Have to Be in Your Lifetime," "In the Heart of Sarah Freeman"), jangly pop songs built around snappy percussion loops and acoustic guitars ("Get It Straighter," "Awake, Drunk and Average," "All Things Go Round"), and assorted brief instrumental interludes. Texturally it ranges from the sparse, traditionalist piano accompaniment of "Freedom Fighters" to the skittering electronics of "Soul Sisters" to the lush blend of synths, symphonics, and an oddly poignant computer-voice sample on the gorgeous standout "The Astronauts." It's a lot of territory to cover in 40 minutes, but Let's Wake Up never comes across as rushed or overly ambitious, merely as a relaxed and refreshing glimpse into the hearts and minds of a couple of talented but unpretentious sentimentalists. As inventive as it is listenable, this is exactly the sort of album that habitually inspires laments about inevitable and undeserved obscurity, so spread the word; seek it out, soak it in, and share it with your loved ones.
Let's Wake Up Somewhere Else Review
by K. Ross Hoffman