Sunday, July 22, 2012

House of Light - Come Into My Night

I first came across House of Light thanks to the recommendation of our very own Penfold. He had stumbled upon them and suggested I give them a listen, based on his knowledge of my own musical tastes. Quite frankly, I’m rather glad he did, because I think they’re a lovely little bit of dark indie rock, perfectly suited to be the soundtrack for a dark, underground bar for a few  drinks with a few (possibly ever so slightly depressed) friends.

Come Into My Night sounds like a miasma of smokey bars, black jackets and regrets. There are pretty strong post-punk influences (particularly from Joy Division) from the very beginning, but overall they have a very alternative/indie sound. The best way to describe the whole feeling of the album is hazy. The guitar and keyboard work in particular give a wall of sound that’s just perfect to zone out to. One thing that I am particularly fond of is that one listen lets you know exactly what to expect from the band as a whole. You can tell this is the work of a fashionably dressed, gloomy young outfit with a genuine love for the sounds they make.

Opener “House of Love” kicks in with some nicely fuzzy bass and guitar under melancholic, yet strangely catchy piano. Vocals are nice and distant, blending in with the lush tones of the other instruments and delivered in such a way that you can just tell they were sang with eyes closed. Somehow, it sounds like a radio hit from a parallel dimension, where the pop charts are ruled by the likes of Radiohead or The Smiths. It’s deliciously catchy, but more in the sense that you’d find yourself humming along to the whole song, as opposed to just screaming the chorus at the steering wheel of your car.

Second track “Naked in a Dream” is my personal favourite though. Opening with frantic drumming, it gradually adds in near-psychedelic guitars and distant, haunting vocals which blend perfectly in with the wall of sound. I found myself trying to sing along to the vocal melody during my first listen, despite not knowing the lyrics, which, talking of free falling,  wanting to sleep and seeing too much, fit the morose tone of the song perfectly. This one I found really hard to pigeonhole, and I for one absolutely love when I find something I can’t easily classify or categorize. It’s what I live for. Well, musically anyway.

“Zeitgeist” opens with a curveball of a guitar riff that really threw me off guard. I was expecting the entire album to be gloomy and atmospheric, much like the first two tracks, but after all, aren’t we all a sucker for a big tasty lick? The guitar on here really takes centre stage, giving it a much more traditionally alternative rock sound. Despite the atmospherics taking a slight back seat though, the gruff vocals, keyboards and synths keep everything layered nicely together and tie it in nicely with the sound established by the first two tracks.

I’m not too pushed by “21st Century Prayer”. It’s not necessarily a bad song, and it does have a very definite HoL sound to it, but I find it just lacks that little bit extra to really make it stand out. There’s no real catchy hook or clever atmospheric trickery going on, and while it does work in the context of the album and its tone, it strikes me as the kind of track that couldn’t stand on its own. One I’d skip if it came up on shuffle, so to speak.

“New York City” marked the first time the vocals really hit me before the instrumentation. In particular, the “we won’t sleep tonight” near the beginning really jumped out from my first listen. This one again gives me the feeling of a particularly dark pop song. Something about this track in particular makes me really want to see these guys play live. Also, the bass really shines brightest on this track, which makes for a nice change. Something about this makes me think it’d be best enjoyed live. There’s some kind of energy to it that I think would really suit an intimate live show.

“Radiate” is probably the best song to show someone who has never heard of the band to give them an idea of how they sound overall. The intro is ethereally calming, reminiscent of looking out the window of an apartment building as the city sleeps beneath you. Then it kicks in fully, and we get the full House of Light experience – steady bass, solid drums, wailing synths and guitars that go from clean and picked to psychedelically fuzzy, all held together with deliciously sullen vocals. As I’ve said, I still find “Naked in a Dream” to be the real jewel in the crown, but in terms of really nailing every aspect of the House of Light sound, I reckon “Radiate” hits it dead on.

Closer “Still Life” is the perfect coda for the album. The whole song is held together by slow, steady drumming, with intricate guitar and soothing piano chords gently winding things down. Vocals are also at their clearest here, and there are some really nice vocal harmonies which flow with the instrumentation to give an upliftingly haunting vibe to the whole track. It wraps things up nicely, managing to straddle the line between optimism and pessimism perfectly.

My favourite thing about this album overall though is how it polished it sounds, and that’s not just referring to the production. Rather, it sounds as if House of Light have genuinely put their heart and soul into crafting these dark little gems to sound exactly as they do on here. There’s an excellent blending of indie, post-punk and even dark pop (that is a real genre, right?) that all swirls together into a delightful maelstrom of cigarette smoke and late nights. For those of the nocturnal persuasion, I’d definitely recommend giving it a spin. Because, hey, who wants to listen to something uplifting at 2AM?


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