Violent Light

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When Brooklyn's Milagres first appeared in 2008, it was with the semi-acoustic and largely atmospheric mountaineering-themed album Seven Summits, which they recorded under the name the Secret Life of Sophia. One debilitating climbing accident, a name-change, and an inspired second album later, frontman Kyle Wilson and his bandmates are back with the glowing synth bombast of Violent Light. Continuing to mine his personal mythology, much of the album was inspired by Wilson's childhood trips to the deserts of New Mexico and his grandfather's involvement with the Manhattan Project and the development of the hydrogen bomb. Weighty stuff, for sure, but one of the most surprising things about Violent Light is how it balances its heavy conceptual undertones with a sort of sensual, mid-'80s neon glitz. A song like "Jeweled Cave" recalls latter day Roxy Music with its deep groove and icy sheen, while the seductive "Urban Eunuchs" and the sophisticated "The Letterbomb" recall Bowie in several of his guises. Throughout their career, Milagres have earned comparisons to Coldplay which are not unfounded, especially on big, melodic pop songs like "Terrifying Sea" or the falsetto-wielding synth pop of "Sunburn." Just because Milagres record for the Kill Rock Stars label doesn't mean they're an indie band in the traditional sense. Violent Light glows with the kind of big-budget sheen that used to only come from bands with a S.W.A.T. team of producers, A&R people, and lots of big-label money behind them. They have a big sound and reach for the same stars as stadium-filling veterans like Coldplay and U2, while still retaining their independent sense of artistry. If greater success follows them, treading that line between creativity and audience demand will become harder to do, but for now, Milagres have succeeded in making a unique and ultimately appealing record.

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