Sunday, June 3, 2012

Listening Midwestward - The Lighthouse and the Whaler

Cleveland, Ohio is a city whose residents are generally described as, "hard working", "blue-collar", and as people who "bring their lunch pails to work." It's an old steel town that never lost the steel town reputation; a place that seems to fit fuzzy guitars, and heavy backbeats. In recent years the city has been trying to shake off the Rust Belt aura, and the sweet, ornate indie-pop of The Lighthouse and the Whaler is a sure step in that direction.

The Pioneers EP, which came out earlier this year, is three tracks of thoughtfully orchestrated chamber pop featuring intimately personal lyrics on top of a musical package that's bursting at the seams. The tunes shift between quiet and loud moments, at one point bare vocals and keys before opening up deep, rich drums and bass, delicate chimes, and a lilting violin. Each pause comes as a brief, cheek-to-cheek stop for breath before once again diving into to another swirling melody.

The first track - which is also the title track - opens nostalgically as singer Michael Lopresti sings,
I was wishing we could go back to how it was
before age impaired our reach
I was wishing we could go back to the house
our hands stretched under old pine trees
The music, relentless and eager, powers a song that's focused on trying to recapture a youthful vitality and sense of wonder. It's a lush song whose adventurous melodies play out much like Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition."

The second track, "Burst Apart", is more straightforward and decisive than its predecessor. Instead of looking back in order to go forward it simply plows ahead fully confident that love will be enough to carry through. Accompanied by a lightly see-sawing violin and a series of cymbal taps it proclaims, "We'll stay entwined through desperate times. I know that it could just be me and you."

"Iron Doors" finishes the EP on a more thoughtful, slower-paced note. The intrepid optimism of the first song and the faithful determination of the second have faded away. It's a song that constantly questions the present, full of uncertainty and trepidation. The song is a faltering of self-confidence on the precipice of a long-sought goal; a questioning of resolve and ability right before a journey's end.

Pioneers is twelve minutes of earnest, well-crafted reflection on life that's beautifully put together and executed with heart and with care. The pretty, summery collection of hope and longing is a criminally small tease of what these five can do, but luckily the band is already at work on its next full length, This is an Adventure, release date TBD. In the meantime purchase Pioneers for only $3 or check out the group's past releases over on bandcamp.

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