Nightlands: Oak Island

oakislandoption22.11183I was intrigued by the unique sound of Nightlands and decided to check out their new album, Oak Island. The first song, ‘Time and Place’ sets the nostalgic tone of this album with a overpowering one-man chorus singing, “I’d like to invite you/for just a little while/for just a little while/to a place where I used to go when I was only 17/back to the place/the place that I once knew,” and we are brought to the archeological dig site of songwriter, Dave Hartley’s past. Standing by the edge of the excavation, looking down at the indistinguishable scraps of someone’s life, we find that these colorful, luminescent fossils seem to remind us of a very special time; and though these finds may be unrecognizable, they are not unfamiliar to us. What are they? The locked bones of a teenage romance? A mangled bicycle that was once the key to freedom? A million plastic relics among the scattered remnants of a time capsule buried eons ago by a group of friends. Old family photographs, a collection of coveted books and magazines that once served as imaginary escape routes, and a high school yearbook riddled with notes and signatures… all these things miraculously preserved within the sinew of mother Earth.

It certainly does feel like an emotional work, somber at times but never sad, and functioning at a slow pace for the most part– But don’t expect to take a nap during this album. It’s hard to say exactly what I like about Nightlands’ sound: The instrumentation is very eclectic, but not to the point that I couldn’t imagine it being played live with drums, guitar, bass, horns, saxes, maybe a drum machine or a synth, and lots of people singing; maybe a small choir. The excellent, heavily-layered vocals create ghostly-yet-warm, calming, tones that work well with that clean reverb guitar heard in many a Grizzly Bear tune. The composition style of Oak Island is not very demanding on the listener, no crazy meters or changes of tempo or key, but there are some pretty cool sections that deviate from the standard expectations of contemporary songwriting. So relax, and take it easy.

Myself, I prefer the more happy, upbeat songs like ‘Born to Love’ and ‘I Fell in Love with a Feeling’ that evoke energetic sentiments and allow me to see those pieces of junk trapped in the dirt that start to make more sense as they brush themselves off and come back to life. Yet even the melancholy tracks like ‘Other People’s Pockets’ have something reminiscent of comfort to offer. Still, by the end of Oak Island, I’d have to say that I felt like I wanted a little more out of this album; not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s not the kind of thing I’d want to listen to every day… 7/10

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