Monday, May 9, 2016

Son Lux - Bones

I was introduced to Son Lux through the recommendations that YouTube sometimes  presents on its homepage. Although compiled based on the content and music I frequently listen to, the suggestions usually strike a wrong note. Fortunately, they really got it right this time.
Son Lux, aka Ryan Lott is an American producer, collaborator and artist. His works include soundtracks for various films (Paper Towns, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby etc.) and tunes for different commercial projects. Lott is also a member of trip hop group Sisyphus and has additionally been associated with names like Arcade Fire,  Lorde and even Beyonce.
Until 2015 Son Lux was mostly a solo act, but his fourth album Bones demonstrates a collaborative trio composed of guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, drummer Ian Chang and Lott himself. The additions to the group compliment and refine Lott and his unique style, bringing something truly special to the table. The three together produce futuristic and dynamic sounds, creating something quite uncommon.
Defining the style of Son Lux is quite tricky. Especially when assessing Bones and its 11 one-of-a-kind singles. They could be described as electro-chamber pop, trip hop or even post-rock. It is evident that one of the objectives of Son Lux is to experiment, e.g. blend and mix different styles together. Thus it is difficult to point out 1 or 2 dominant approaches.
That been said, the music of Son Lux can be recognized easily.  Lott’s own intense, often robotic vocals are a giveaway.  With past singles and albums (We are Rising, Lanterns) one could also instantly observe how he fiercely harmonizes with different textures, instruments and patterns. It often feels like it is all too much but then you stumble upon singles like “Easy”, which strikes and conquers with its minimalism. Up to now, the track has also been their greatest success.

Bones was released on June 23, 2015. It was right about the same time I discovered Son Lux and I had a wonderful opportunity to go through all 4 albums at the same time and witness how Lott had evolved throughout the years.  Whereas previous albums seemed more experimental and all over the place, Bones definitely tries to tell a cohesive story. Many concepts and messages repeat themselves in different songs and to me, they all represent the main idea – reinveting yourself and discovering one’s true potential. The subject of time is also quite prominent. Bones tries to encourage the listener to seize the day and appreciate the now.

The first single from Son Lux I got to know was “Your Day Will Come”. Sometimes when listening to a new song and hearing just the first couple of seconds of it you know instantly that this is going to be something good.  This was definitely one of those songs and until this day it is still very special to me. I felt like I had found an artist that represents everything I look for in music. The message of the single is strong and it spoke to me right away. It also stands for one of the recurring subjects of the album, “Your Day Will Come” is about breaking free, finding your moment and the courage to shine. It has an enlivening and inspiring effect, although the sound itself can actually be described as dark and at times even a little bit creepy. That is also quite characteristic to Son Lux. “Your Day Will Come” is one of the more simplistic songs from the album and it is a nice change from the heavy drums and electronic blends.

The first full track on the album is “Change is Everything”, which up to now has been the most popular single on Bones. Although Son Lux does not qualify as a mainstream artist, this song is probably the only one that could appeal to mainstream audiences. It is the most pop-sounding and at the same time the most hard-hitting of all the singles. Again, the content refers to the now, the present and what is there to come in the future. ‘’See the bones glow as they break free’’ pretty much summarizes what to me the whole concept of the album is. The song is also accompanied by a simple, yet unique and creative video.

As a contrast to the previous, “You Don’t Know Me” features some intriguing images with Tatiana Maslany and Noah Segan. The general feeling of the song and video combined together is dark, weird and a little bit terrifying. The single is a standout not only for its video but also because similarly to “Your Day Will Come” it is much more simplistic compared to the other tracks. To my mind, Son lux really excels when they go for more simple patterns and textures, since a lot of the other singles get carried away with blending and mixing different sounds together, often making it difficult to listen to.
“You Don’t Know Me” also emerges because of the message behind the video and song.  There are a couple of ways to interpret all of it. The most obvious one leans directly on its haunting lyrics. The line ‘you don’t know me’ is repeated throughout the song and in the video we see Tatiana who is clearly very unhappy with her relationship but pretends to be otherwise in front of her ignorant partner. In the other part of the video she spends her time running a freaky cult of some sort. So, the first idea that comes through is that we really do not know each other all that well even if we have spent half of our lives together.

The director of the video actually wanted to draw attention on the empty rituals that we tend to in life, specifically those that relate to relationships and religion.

Another standout on the album is “Undone”, also accompanied by a powerful video. In this one we see a woman desperately trying to run away from something, we might presume it is an unfavorable romance. If we have a closer look at the lyrics, it is clear that the song addressess issues of identity and insecurity:

You want to say it but your mouth is shut
Oh, something is calling but you won't know what
Who are you
What then will you do?

The single is different from the rest of the album since it is much more jazzy and it highlights the guitar instead of heavy electronic beats. I was quite indifferent to the song before, but after the premiere of the video my mind was changed. It lifted the track to another level and I found a whole new meaning to it.

The album closes with two singles “Now I Want” and “Breathe Out” (a response to the first track on the album “Breathe In”). In the first one the story of time and freedom gets wrapped up with the lyrics  ‘Now I want to be free, Now I want to be free’ performed  until the end of the song. Although  the rest of the lyrics are still quite dark and intense, among all the tracks on the album “Now I Want” is also one of the more uplifting and inspiring tunes. It summarizes the album on a positive note.

Bones is a great album, but it is not something you play when you are trying to relax or unwind. It is often difficult to follow because the intense eletronic rhythms and different textures blended together are just too much to take in. At times it also feels a little bit chaotic and clumsy. Nevertheless, the futuristic album features some true masterpieces, some of which are also accompanied by unique and evocative music videos. Overall, the style and vibe of the album is dark but the main messages coming through are about hope, becoming free and discovering one’s true self. Although some of the tracks do not impress, over half of the album still shines and comes through magnificently. Considering all of the previous, I give Bones a 7.5 out of 10 points. 

Katriin Hint

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