Two pictures of a sunset over a slice of bucolic America (shot on film, of course): a fitting cover for an album which embodies that familiar feeling of late-summer listlessness. ‘Longwave’ is a record which seems to typify the peculiar topography of the corridor that runs between Detroit (where Bonny Doon are based) and Northern Michigan (where they wrote ‘Longwave’ over a week) – all hazy, “crooked” skies, scenic forests and lakes.
It’s a record whose ten tracks belong perfectly to a playlist you might name “Alt-Country That You Can Drive To”. Case in point: on ‘I Am Here (I Am Alive)’ the sentiment “I just want to be where I’m going”, even though they have little idea of the destination. It’s all about inhabiting the present, and whilst parts of ‘Longwave’ do revel in a kind of sepia-toned melancholy, they avoid sounding too despondent. Even if It lacks spikiness and eschews overt slacker tropes, it shows that the group don’t take themselves too seriously, which is a Big Plus.
Opener ‘Long Wave’ revolves around subtle developments and does a good job of prefiguring what’s to come. At the other end of the record, ‘Part of Me’ and ‘Walkdown’ are highlights. The latter, with its more lo-fi production, is a nice counterpart to the breeziness of the rest of the album. A few tracks in between become almost dangerously slow, like ‘Take Me Away’, but are redeemed by lovely drawn-out instrumental breaks.
“I was saying nice things till I ran out” (from ‘Saved’)… Some lyrics enter the realm of the crushingly anodyne, as in “You are who you’re supposed to be” on the title track. It’s easy to scoff at ‘Saw A Light’’s oh-so poetic nuggets such as “I saw a light coming over the horizon (x3)” and “I saw the truth, it was clear as day (x2)”. Titles like ‘I Am Here (I Am Alive)’, ‘Take Me Away’, ‘Where Do You Go?’, ‘Saved’ and ‘Saw A Light’ initially seem to be premonitions of crude, quasi-pious life-affirmingness but mercifully avoid striking such a tone.
The lyrics don’t draw attention to themselves (which is sometimes just as well), but neither does the music. It makes a bold statement in its very pared-backness, and it’s a simpler and more measured affair compared to last year’s debut. The dashes of organ, keys and languid slide guitar add real warmth.
Above all, these ten songs convey a mood, that of late-summer lethargy, of “wasting time” and not really knowing where you’re going; they form a cohesive whole, and it seems a bit pointless to break it down and get hung up about subtleties, something that becomes clear upon repeated listens. ‘Longwave’ is a gently simple record but one which manages to exert an almost hypnotic pull.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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