Angels of Light Sing Other People

Copper Press | Christian Carey

a dozen delicate chamber pop songs

The cover photos for The Angels of Light Sing "Other People" are deliberately blurry, to better obscure the identities of some of the subjects of songs on the album. However, there is nothing unfocused about the music on this CD. The group's leader and principal songwriter, Michael Gira (former steward of the art-rock band Swans), deploys his expressive bass voice in a dozen delicate chamber pop songs. Sometimes his mellifluous delivery glides from pitch to pitch and to places "in the cracks between the keys", evoking a dash of Lou Reed. But these moments of "speech song" are more than balanced here by a series of memorable sung choruses. He is joined by Akron/Family, who serve as collaborators rather than merely back-up musicians, crafting a glimmering sound world that borrows liberally from the folk-rock tradition. Strummed acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, a halo of synthesizer pads, and occasional touches of reeds and percussion make for an intriguing combination of directness and intricacy. While the songs on Other People are ostensibly about specific people (and Swan/Gira fans will doubtless be able to match several songs to their respective subjects), most identifying details have been masked. This may have been done for reasons of discretion, but the end result is that this broadens the songs' appeal and reach. That said, Gira can't resist taking an overt swipe at Michael Jackson on the venomous "Michael's White Hands." Apart from the aggressive character of this song, much of the album is of a contemplative, often gently mournful character. Songs such as "The Kid is Already Breaking" and "Dawn" deal with the fragility of childhood; like Gira's screed against Jackson, these songs point up how easily innocence can be compromised. Still, this is not a pessimistic album; Gira does not suggest that all is lost or for naught despite the grim worldview depicted here. The theme of transcendent heroism is elegantly explored in "To Live through Someone." "Purple Creek" is a poignant ballad that revels in the beauty of nature and savors the concept of "coming home." Perhaps it's a sign of Gira's own "coming home" that his music has evolved into this more reflective place. His confrontational style has not in any way been defanged, but now edge and anger are incorporated into a broader palette of emotions and experiences. As a result, Other People serves as an expressive, wide-ranging, and often touching record. -