In Review | AU - Both Lights

Both Lights is an album for cloud watchers. In it AU embody forces in their natural state - pulling you in to take you into flight, lifting your senses with them to the crest of the wave - utter euphoria.

It's been three years since the last album from AU. The Portland, Oregon-based duo made up of Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka, emerged in 2008 with the critically acclaimed Verbs, followed by the 7-song EP Versions the following year. It seems they've fit a lot of living into these three years - Both Lights is a tale of lifts and falls. Love, and drifting. Euphoria and sorrow. All executed with, at the same instant, great care and utter freedom.

The album kicks off with the seemingly interminable "Epic". Climbing guitars accompanied by a skittering drum-line, settling into a steady build of layer upon layer to a soaring crescendo. "Epic", is just that.

The dancing banjo backing of second track "Get Alive" lends a joyful mood, and again you are immersed in layers of playful melody and driving rhythm and elevated to a euphoric peak, but in the end left relaxed and ready for more.

The pace slowed, Wyland's smooth, doubled tenor caressing you into a trance, "Crazy Idol" takes you deep into a vast pool of pop chamber music. Quickly waking your senses with an infectious beat, the stuttering lyrics and funked-out piano lines of 'OJ' bring you back to the brink.

The division of side A and B is deliberate and works wonderfully. "The Veil" ushers in a dreamy trance to close out side A, while "Solid Gold" ("opener" to side B), offers a short lived easing-in before bursting into a full-blown jam-band stomp - bringing the pulse back into a gallop for another round.

"Go Slow" draws you up with a fluttering backdrop of pianos, culminating in a ballet of wispy, slow-moving clouds across a blue sky of humming organs. "Old Friend" is a beautifully simple balad centering on the guest vocals of Sara Winchester - gentle and full of sorrow.

The album closes out with "Don't Lie Down", a booming track with a drifting legato, the soundtrack of finally falling into sleep.

AU's Both Lights is a soundtrack through life's path. There are no limits to the height of its peaks, building walls of water to ride to euphoria, only to crash again into solitude and heartache - leaving only anticipation for the next wave.

moedus

by Jon McCullough