This week saw the release of Son Lux’s third full-length album, “Lanterns.” “Lanterns” is not music to listen to while studying. It shouldn’t be danced to or played as background music at a dinner party. It would never fit into the “easy-listening” genre. “Lanterns” is a piece of art that requires listening — the kind of listening that leads one to sit down, put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and interact with the music.
Ryan Lott, the mastermind behind the project, has created a complex musical environment that seamlessly toggles between sinister and celebratory. Upbeat synth-pop elements allude to Lott’s previous work with experimental musicians such as Sufjan Stevens and beautifully contrast the choral melodies and technical string parts he picked up from his years of classical musical training.
“Lost it to Trying,” a single that was pre-released this past September in anticipation of the full album, begins with simple riffs and builds layer-by-layer into a soaring anthem that lifts readers into the kind of magical place Lott must be writing from. The complexity of the instrumentation is contrasted by the simple repetition of lyrics: “What will we do now? We lost it to trying.”
Lott’s haunting vocals are showcased on the ethereal ballad “Easy.” His notes are delivered with confidence yet waiver and seem to fall like sand between the fingers of listeners trying to hold onto consistency.
At times, the album becomes exhausting. Simpler melodies are carefully scattered throughout the album to provide listeners’ ears and minds a break at opportune times. Yet finishing the album requires a deep exhale — both to calm yourself and to pause for a second to revel in the glory of what has just been heard.