Angels of Light | Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home | Review | Dave Heaton

has musical arrangements that are full of surprises

The world of The Angels of Light is a dark, harsh one, with betrayal, sadness and confusion lurking in the hearts of everyone. Their last album, How I Loved You, was almost too dark for me to take, like a slow march towards an ending that you know isn't going to be a happy one. Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home is at least as dark, yet somehow it's less depressing than inspiring. While M. Gira, who is The Angels of Light, is treading on similar lyrical and musical ground, the album has a joyous intensity about it. Something in the music, in his singing, in the way the songs were performed and recorded, fills you with adrenaline, even when the songs move at a snail's pace, as they sometimes do. In some places, the extra vigor is at least partly due to a more expansive sonic palette, including not just somber guitar and piano but vibes, dulcimer, percussion horns, flutes, violin and a variety of other sounds and voices. An assortment of guest musicians-everyone from other Young God musicians like Devendra Banhart and David Coulter to Kid Congo Powers and a children's choir-lend the album a festive feel, even when the subject is murder. The album also has musical arrangements that are full of surprises. A chorus of voices or a wave of harsh noises is likely to crash through the song in mid-verse. All of this gives the album a current of electricity that makes it resemble some sort of Sunday gospel brunch, even when the moods swing towards the furthest opposite side of town. And whether he's growling a Howling Wolf-meet-Birthday Party rave-up that sounds like party-music for a late-night blood orgy at Dracula's mansion or singing a gentle guitar-and-harmonica folk ballad, Gira has true presence as a singer. He drives his words right into your skull. His words hold nothing back, either. They mercilessly rip into the lives and souls of the people he's singing about, as on the first song which ends with the not exactly hope-filled line, "Reasons won't come, and no one will regret that you're gone." Gira's songs deal with people and their desires-for power, love, comfort, sex-in a stark, haunting way. By the end of Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home, you might trust that the second half of the album's title is more heartfelt than the first, but you won't want to throw yourself off a bridge either. Bad music is depressing. The best music can look clear-eyed into the darkest side of humanity without flinching. Afterwards you feel not sad but revitalized.