For two musicians that have been apart for almost three years, the musical chemistry between Ryan Weber and Eric Osterman is pretty much perfect. With previous Eric & Magill records being made across oceans, In This Light seems to be more of a homecoming show.
Even if they are still sporting that nostalgic dreamy sound, there is a change in form. The elegiac All Those I know (2010) was quiet and introspective. The bombastic Night Singers (2013) was raucous and uplifting. In This Light takes experiences gained from previous LPs (and EPs) and creates an atmosphere full of candor that expands the nuanced sadness that felt inherent to the previous albums.
But worry not – this is not a weepy lamentation. In This Light is a brisk (26 minutes!) trip through luscious music that allows itself to be celebratory (‘You never know’) and intimate (‘Post-it note’).
‘Easy it goes’ is pure dream pop gorgeousness, finding itself surrounded by neon lights, videogame arcades and fluorescent-bright clothes with an addictive bass line. ‘What’s your secret?’ brings out the primordial sound of Eric & Magill: whispered vocals, a thousand layers of music where elements can still be identified and that characteristic drumming, succinctly pacing the lucid dream created by the song and continued by the lovely ‘You never know’, with its bombastic trumpet-like synth lines.
Now, for all the ethereal stuff presented here, we do have a lot of down to Earth numbers. ‘Suburban Devastation’ meditates on life in suburbia, wistfully strumming a guitar and plucking a piano. ‘Holding onto light’ breathes and yearns, like a quiet moment you take out of your daily grind to look at raindrops hitting the office window. ‘Post-it note’ is sobering but still indulges in that Americana darling: the pedal steel. It gives it an alt-country feeling that fits perfectly and shapes the track.
So far, that’s two genres tackled. And then there’s a third genre which I’m just calling “The Champaign/Milwaukee Dream Pop Rock Scene” which includes Decibully, Headlights, Absinthe Blind, Withershins, Maritime, National Skyline and obviously Eric & Magill. It’s hard to describe it without abusing the adjective “Dreamy” so the best way is to produce some sort of evidence:
Expansive, warm, filling the stereo, bass and synth heavy, longing voices. That’s what this genre I just pulled out of my pocket/ass/caffeinated mind is about. And I love it for what it is. Emotional but never cringe-inducing. Happy but with a few hints of sadness. Introspective but still warming. I chose ‘Up in the air’ but ‘Get what you want’ and ‘That old haunt’ are evidences B and C, m’lord.
‘Merry go-round heart’ is a top song and an excellent choice for album closer. It curtly puts all the elements explored by Ryan and Eric, mixes them in an Erlenmeyer flask, violently shakes it and runs away as the fireworks go off. Just like the carnival ride of its namesake, ‘Merry go-round heart’ starts slowly then explodes into a vertiginous roar. Just when it all seems to have ground to a stop and the vertigo might set it, a lonely synth drone warns you that one last spin is incoming. It booms and then a needle scratches the record. We are now spinning in space and that blue spot below us is waving goodbye.
PS: If you enjoy this album, I endorse their Kick the covers EP, vol. 2. It has covers of Maritime and Braid and you know that’s great.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López