Jan 23, 2013 Issue #44 - Best of 2012 - Grimes
Dave Hartley may be better known in his role as the bassist for The War on Drugs, but Nightlands is his baby. It's a meticulously-rendered solo project; his 2010 debut, Forget the Mantra, experimented with a mix of found audio and home recordings to create its unique musical patchwork. On Oak Island, Hartley moves away from sonic collage and into Eno-esque studio exploration.
The same laid-back, hypnagogic tone has been carried over from record to record, but Oak Island is a much smoother experience. The stranger elements from the first album-the chopped dialogue clips, the warped cassette effects, the chanting-are now gone; what remains is more straightforward and relaxed. The album moves at a languid pace, which works very well in some songs, such as "So Far So Long," with its unhurried percussion and meditative lyrics, but in others-such as the pretty but listless "You're My Baby"-it ends up squandering what little momentum the album does build. The tracks lack any sense of urgency until too late; "I Fell In Love With A Feeling" finally moves at a faster clip and brings in a great, punchy brass accompaniment, but doesn't come until near the album's end. At least Hartley's elegant vocals survived the inter-record purge; he regularly layers his voice on top of itself, building nostalgic, sunshine pop harmonies at the heart of most songs. It's a wonderful effect; if only its trappings were more compelling.
Nightlands' sophomore disc is a solid collection of serene and ambient pop that's pleasing enough to the ears, but lacks gravity; the tracks have a tendency to breeze by and bleed into each other with little distinction. Fans of his first record will likely miss all of its wonderful little eccentricities; Oak Island certainly feels more homogenized in comparison.
Author rating: 5.5/10
Average reader rating: 6/10
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