More Light!!!

Michael Cormier

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More Light!!! Review

by Fred Thomas

Philadelphia-based multi-instrumentalist Michael Cormier debuted as a solo artist in 2018 with a few sets of acoustic singer-songwriter fare. Cormier had been active as the drummer in understated indie band Friendship, as well as arranging instrumental compositions with ambient folk collective Hour, but his solo songs were stripped-down and spare, softly reflecting on early childhood memories and scenes from everyday work life. Third album More Light!! finds Cormier adding a new spark to his thoughtful solo songs by breaking out of the staid approach of earlier records. Both adventurous compositional choices and a new abundance of collaborations result in colorful, textural songs that strike on a deeper emotional level and stay engaging with unexpected turns. Album-opener "Degradation" begins with double-tracked vocals and guitars that bend between different keys as Cormier sings about trouble sleeping and striving to get more out of life. The song has the same gentle, cloudy melancholy as some of the more legendary Pacific Northwestern indie acts like Built to Spill or Elliott Smith, but takes flight when jittery electronic drums, clusters of Rhodes piano, and edgy bass come in. The song rides a tenuous balance between frustration and hope, and violinist Lina Tullgren swoops in for the song's final third to emphasize this conflicting feeling with playing that's part dissonant scratchiness, part soaring beauty. "Call Declined" is similar, reflecting on the toxicity of social media with layered vocal harmonies, lush electronics, and a creaky violin mirroring the song's sad-hearted melody. Cormier invited a host of friends to contribute to the album remotely, sending them skeletal sketches and letting them improvise auxiliary parts over top. One of the brightest examples of this kind of collaboration is "Last Hurrah," a song that sets a scene of a birthday party in a karaoke bar that's supposed to be celebratory but can't quite shake its sadness. Lauren Turner contributes both airy vocal harmonies and lilting flute flourishes as swirls of pedal steel guitar and bleeping synths dance around in the song's sepia-toned mood. The song ends with field recordings of actual karaoke performances, doused in reverb and delay until they become additional atmospheric layers. More Light!! maintains a consistent environment of patient, softly drawn loveliness throughout. It's delicate and restrained, but sharp inspection of uneasy emotions means it's never hushed. Cormier's direct depictions of complex feelings meet with intricate song composition, presenting themes of heaviness, dread, and difficult change with a sweetness that can be breathtaking.

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