If ever there was a group whose name perfectly fits their sound, it would have to be the UK combo Lanterns On The Lake, whose music softly floats and flickers while leaving you in a virtual trance. This is definitely a band with grand artistic ambitions, and they largely accomplish what it is they’re aiming for on their new album Beings. Guitarist Paul Gregory, who also serves as the album’s producer, creates tremendous soundscapes in both roles, while lead vocalist Hazel Wilde lends an angelic voice to the proceedings, which ideally fits her imaginative and extremely poetic lyrics. What they have done on Beings is nothing short of brilliant.
What is truly outstanding about Beings is its cohesiveness as a whole, both musically and lyrically. Wilde is one of the finest lyricists in music today, and she had a goal in sight on this album from the very beginning. “There is a sense of the need to connect to something; the need to find meaning,” Wilde stated in a profile on her record company’s website. “We’re encouraged to celebrate the shallow side of culture. This record carries that sense of yearning for something greater.” No better explanation could suffice.
Feelings of hopelessness rear their head from the start on “Of Dust & Matter” as Wilde sings about passing out drunk in the kitchen, and being perfectly fine with it. That she sings this over music so dramatic and so full of sadness and longing makes its impact all the greater. That longing flows into the next song “I’ll Stall Them”, where she laments ‘a world of plastic souls, where money rules’ before pleading to ‘give me meaning’. She eventually seems to find a touch of it on “Faultlines” where she rues following the crowd just to have friends. The repeated piano motif seems to highlight the monotonousness of it all, and there is a haunted feel to the background vocals that just adds to the bleak mood. But she is also ready to start fighting back, prepared for the ‘wars to wage’, and the shimmering synth outro that builds to a roar serves as the perfect musical representation of this. It also leads perfectly into “The Crawl”, where she finds the strength to promise to ‘walk you through this’. ‘This’ equates to the difficulty of traversing a brutal life amidst many broken souls. She speaks of being on battlefields over gorgeous acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, while martial drums beat in the background. This is as close to true ‘art’ as rock music gets.
Of course, she’s not home free yet. Are any of us, ever? All of us lead somewhat schizophrenic lives. But our dear Hazel is still ready to battle any feelings of despondency, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Meanwhile, Gregory’s tasty guitar effects brighten the otherwise humdrum “Send Me Home,” and truly light up the feisty “Through The Cellar Door” (with the classic line ‘I’m done with the creatures online, there’s more to this life’), which would be a huge hit in an alternative universe. By this point, Wilde is challenging the listener, demanding to know, “Are you with me?” And she’s speaking to all of us ‘beings’, as she makes clear on the title cut, name-checking the side-stepped, uninvited, crumpled, swallowed up, misguided, underclass, etc., etc. She alternately hunkers down and lashes out on the achingly beautiful “Stepping Down” and the stately “Stuck For An Outline”, which has an excellent mid-song blast of intensity.
If Beings is indeed representative of that ‘need to find meaning’, as Wilde stated, then it ends on the perfect note. Album closer “Inkblot” is a short instrumental that simply floats off into the ether, offering nothing…no answers, no suggestions. Wilde and the rest of the band are spent at this point, and have nothing left to say, a place we all seem to end up when we look for the meaning of life. We can search and search, but in the end are left grasping at dead air, never really find the answers we so desperately crave. But in the here and now, floating off into nothingness does not seem to be the destination of Lanterns On The Lake, which three albums in may finally be on their way to a greater appreciation than they have so far received. While they will probably always be a group that excels most at music that you can chill out to, Beings proves definitively that the power of music is not always in the volume.
David A. Bene is a freelance journalist who, during the day, works at a ‘real’ job bringing home the bacon. But at night, when everything comes alive, he can’t help but regularly indulge in two of his greatest passions…writing and music. Put the dude at a corner table with a laptop and some tunes and what do you get? Why, the guy who writes album reviews for Live from the Internet, of course! David, who has authored two books, resides in Independence, KY with his wife and four (yes, four) kids. Read more work from David here.