Heading into the studio, armed with an abundance of big, catchy tunes, it must be pretty tempting to perfectly preen and polish each track until the whole album becomes shinier than Julia Roberts’ big wide tooth filled face. However, the risk which lies in over-polishing your product is making it too difficult to even look out without being blinded by an over-produced glitter covered ballbag. Just look at the first and last Band Of Horses record. Everything All The Time was packed full of essentially ballads, but due to the lo-fi recording ethic, the album was still accessible, down to earth and enjoyable. Fast forward four years and Band of Horses release Infinite Arms, nothing much has changed in terms of Ben Bridwell and Co’s song-writing ability, but the lofty production killed the relatable nature of their early music; instead of remaining that little bit dirty, they became a little bit Disney. WATERS have made the right decision when it came to mixing their new album Out In The Light, ignoring the obvious enticement of going wild with all manner of electronic gadgetry in the studio and, instead, allowing the songs to exist in a much more stripped back, basic environment.
If you were to be cruel, you could call WATERS Girls-lite; they exist within the same realms of classic-song writing inspired by heroes of old, all delivered with a similar level of lo-fi, garage aestheticism. The opening two tracks of the album are about as good as it gets in terms of the album’s quality and how best to make a track sound heroic without letting it sound like Coldplay. The fuzzy, layers of electric guitar, Van Pierszalowski’s distorted vocals and the gritty bass colliding with the percussion give the song raw energy and jagged vigour, but the song never once loses its immediacy or catchiness. ‘O Holy Break Of Day’ is essentially a homage to Crazy Horse era Neil Young and showcases how modern alt.country-rock should be made; sturdy, visceral and rough around the edges.
The whole album isn’t purely a lo-fi country-rock bombast (although on the track ‘Back To You’ that’s exactly what it is), there are moments of soft-rock serenity (‘Ones You Had Before’), syrupy acoustic pop (‘Mickey Mantle’) and clean, raw-boned indie-rock (‘Out In The Light’). Most impressively on this album, however, are the punchy guitar hooks contrasted with Van Pierszalowski’s high pitched, yet melodious, yelp. This is best represented on ‘Take Me Out To The Coast’, structured around basic, yet hard-hitting guitar chords, the song builds and builds upon layers of distorted electric and acoustic guitars and the addition of backing vocal harmonies give the song an almost choir like heavenly lift towards the end. One criticism of Out In The Light would be that it never quite hits the heights of the opening two tracks except, perhaps, on the last but one sprawling country-rock epic ‘San Francisco’.
WATERS have delivered a fine debut full of catchy songs, exquisite instrumentation and faultless production quality. Chances are most people will go out and buy the new Girls album Father, Son, Holy Ghost, but for those who find themselves disappointed and craving more songs like ‘Vomit’ should definitely give this album a go, it’s full of them!
Released on 19th September 2011 by City Slang