We’re not really sure where songs shift from sounding ‘dated’ to sounding ‘retro’. What causes the move from being behind the times and out of touch, to becoming reflective and inspired? Perhaps it’s the length of time between the originators and the new work that it influences which allows it the benefit of any doubt? Well, today we recommend an artist who has skipped through the major artists of the 60s and 70s like a child through a flowered meadow and not only retained credibility, but produced one of the most beautiful album’s of not just recent times, but any.
Shai Halperin was once known to us as a member of The Capitol Years and War On Drugs, before he stepped away to create his own solo compositions, Sweet Lights. The results of this independent work resulted in the self-titled debut album, which arrive towards the end of last year. At it’s heights it’s nothing short of breathtaking, showcasing this songsmith’s talents off as it twists and turns throughout.
It’s with this album that the reflective influences are poured into every crevasse, from The Beatles, on more than one occasion, but none more so than the second track, Are We Gonna Work It Out, which hovers so closely to the similarly-titled Beatles tune it only avoids a lawsuit because it seems like such a tribute. The inspirations are further in evidence with the album’s lead track, Message On The Wire, which could have been plucked from the song sheets of Gilmour and Waters.
On it goes with his latest track, The Shortest Man On Earth, due out on April 1st, which sounds like it could have been made by any of The Travelling Wilburys. Like almost all of his other work , it drives along at a steady pop rock pace, seeming to transcend time itself. Like all the classics that helped carve out Shai’s work, this is music with a very, very long shelf-life. Immortal and adorable, blending solid pop, rock and folk song structures with atmospheric vocals and storytelling lyrics, this is an artist that you just know will run and run.
Shai self-produced and self-released the debut album on his own, recording most of it in a small room from home, with only a little help in the studio from Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, War On Drugs). We may have to wait a little longer for the any subsequent singles to get an official release here in the UK, but he tells us he’s working on getting a few singles out here around July on a small start up label. Although he’s played the likes of Glastonbury with his former bands in previous years, there’s no plans to re-visit the UK for shows quite yet, but he promises to let us know and we will of course shout about if we hear any news.
What is perhaps most refreshing, after drinking in all of Shai’s heavily-saturated work, is that it’s not really possible to be over-influenced. There’s not an artist in existence today that is without the genetics of music’s rich history, so it’s a fallacy to use inspiration as a negative. OK, so Sweet Lights’ work occasionally dances very close to the line from which beyond is a world of imitation, but it’s never stepped over, and that’s ultimately his music’s best trick. After having re-visited the masters of years gone by, he’s managed to remain standing and we believe that his new work unlocks the same difficult device as they did – timelessness. (MB)
SWEET LIGHTS – ARE WE GONNA WORK IT OUT
SWEET LIGHTS – MESSAGE ON THE WIRE
SWEET LIGHTS – THE SHORTEST MAN ON EARTH