Versions Of Us by Lanterns On The LakeRelease date: June 2, 2023
Label: Bella Union
Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake have been steadily building up to making a record as great as Versions Of Us. Since their debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was released in 2011, the band have been making music that is never anything less than appealing and they’ve always had a knack of writing good songs full of melody. Their success levels have been on an upward trajectory resulting in 2020’s Spook The Herd being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Incredibly, this superb sounding album was mixed by guitarist Paul Gregory in his bedroom. Maybe he sleeps in a lavish recording studio.
The making of Versions Of Us was not an easy process. In fact, the band scrapped an entire version of the album, unsatisfied with how it turned out. Mental health issues infiltrated the band’s headspace and drummer Oli Ketteringham left the band, so they turned to Radiohead’s Philip Selway to come play on the album. What an inspired choice, as the drums and percussion on the album are as creative and brilliant as you would expect from such a seasoned performer. Philip’s playing fired up the rest of the band as Paul and Hazel’s guitar work is incredible throughout. But the star of the show is undoubtedly vocalist/pianist/guitarist Hazel Wilde, who turns in a truly stunning vocal performance.
We get under way with ‘The Likes Of Us’ and Hazel delivers an incredible vocal performance, swooping and soaring with passion and emotion. The shuffling percussion and freeform guitars remind me of The National before they dulled things down. The instrumentation is lush and superbly arranged with Paul’s guitars fluid and complimenting Hazel’s melodies. ‘Real Life’ fires along on a lovely piano hook and a popping beat. Every line Hazel sings is delivered with confidence and purpose. The fuzzy guitars that fill out the end of the track add a physicality and I suspect this one will be a favourite of future live sets.
Paul and Hazel’s guitar work is bursting with invention and on ‘Vatican’ the playing brings in some stylish interjections between jazzy laid out chords that allow Hazel to carry the song. One of the strongest melodies permeates the lush ‘String Theory’ and your ears will be caressed with some lovely velvety tones from the guitars. The arrangements at the end of the track are wonderful and widescreen, not to mention pure heart breaking. ‘Thumb of War’ is a grandiose and shimmering beauty of a track, with sweeping guitar work that reminds me of Bernard Butler in his Suede days. Lanterns On The Lake sure know how to create a wall of sound and there’s an incredible amount of layers to every song.
‘The Saboteur’ has a glorious chorus resplendent with some sublime backing vocals from Hazel to reinforce the bright and memorable melody. The soaring ‘Locust’ is exquisitely furnished with some glorious guitars as Hazel becomes the support with some delicious “whoooos”. ‘Rich Girls’ takes a snappy beat and warm bass groove, courtesy of Bob Allan, and then makes a bee line for the centre of your heart with tender tones and an absolutely beautiful lift of instrumentation that has to be heard to really understand. Glorious. Finally, ‘Last Transmission’ winds down the album with a tender melody and sweeping stringed instrumentation, from Angela Chan. The guitars are psychedelic and intriguing and as the track winds to a close the melodies are pure and euphoric.
As I said at the outset, Lanterns On The Lake have steadily been building up to this album. There is an unbridled confidence with every note and Hazel really does excel with every line she sings. The songs are superbly crafted, and every play reveals new details and layers appear you’d not detected before. It’s not just an audiophile’s dream though, the melodies have been carefully crafted and there is an abundance of memorable hooks throughout. The time has come for Lanterns On The Lake to elevate to arena status, Versions Of Us is just exceptional, it really is.