Peaking Lights: Lucifer Review
Hype is a funny thing. For a mainstream band, say the Black Keys, it works great. When your hard work finally pays off in that hard to describe “buzz,” you have clear cut ways to capitalize. You record a record and start looking for the “hit” and hope you pick the right one. If you do (Beach House, Blitzen Trapper, Black Keys, etc), you win! The Current will play your song once and hour and you will fill First Avenue with bro’s drinking Miller Lite and throwing up the ol’ devil horns.
But what to do if you are a band like Peaking Lights? You make some waves with your sophomore LP 936, getting attention from all of the right places, but your follow up LP continues your spacy-dub blend of pop, which isn’t exactly conducive to radio play. Outside of the album opening and closing vignettes (which are short, minute and a half bursts of colorful noise), no song on the record falls below the six minute mark. The work, from the twinkling keys and buoyant groove of “Live Love” and “Cosmic Love” to bubbling strut of “Midnight (In the Valley of the Shadows),” is not the kind of music that grabs you by the collar the first time you listen to it. The closest analogy I can think of is Panda Bear, who broke out with Person Pitch, only to follow it up with the equally beautiful yet obtuse gem Tomboy. While for certain music fans Tomboy was as “highly anticipated” as it gets, the reality it that to the general public they have no fucking idea whether the artist is Panda Bear or Tomboy. Into this ether came Peaking Lights, signing to the venerable label Mexican Summer and releasing their “highly anticpated” LP Lucifer. When the first song from the album, “Lo Hi,” dropped into the interwebs, it was an exciting moment for music nerds like me, but the praise felt like preaching to the choir. The song features all of the hallmarks that make the band so good. The song has a liquid bass line, pushing the woozy synth and pretty vocal lines towards a sonic nirvana. The husband and wife duo feature wife Indra Dunis on the ethereal vocals and mystifying synths, with husband Aaron Coyes on guitar and homemade electronics. The sound meshes together a psychedelic pop sound with dub grooves and ambient haze.
On the track “Beautiful Son,” the duo create a warm atmosphere that feels like technicolor waves washing through your speakers, with a chirping synth line dancing around Dunis’s heartbreakingly beautiful vocals. They even include the coo’s of their new son, who should have quite a music career ahead of him based on his makers. It is songs like “Dream Beat” that make me sad that Peaking Lights are selling only 1,000 copies of their new record in the first week and not 1 million. A spine rattling bass line is the foundation of a song that jumps back and forth between a classic pop song and a deconstructed ambient haze. Dunis’s manipulated vocals are as lovely as ever, and the song spreads its vibe over six and a half wonderful minutes.
While the band are probably not going to sell out Madison Square Garden or play Letterman anytime soon, it is at least redeeming that they are getting the attention they do. When you stretch yourself to make the music that Peaking Lights do, music that takes concentration and forces the listener to assume some responsibility to absorb the material, not just wait for a punchy chorus, you are risking missing out on a large segment of society. Their loss.