released December 15, 2017
The Stars Seemed Brighter
Recorded and mixed by Gary Olson At Marlborough Farms, Brooklyn
Mastered by Ron Harrity at Peapod Recordings, Portland, Maine
Keyboards by Kyle Forester
Tambourine on Mother Cries by Hamish Kilgour
Sleeve by Frederik Jehle
Photo credits "Der Geteilte Himmel" (DEFA 1964)
Special thanks also to Daniel Martin @ Icestorm Group
and cover stars Renate Blume & Eberhard Esche
Songs sequenced by Kenji Kitahama
Thanks to Simon Love and Matt Ashton
Pale Lights on this record are
Andy Adler, lead guitar
Lisa Goldstein, drums
Suzanne Nienaber, vocals
Maria Pace, bass guitar
Philip Sutton, vocals and guitar
LP released by Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten (KUS 011)
CD released by Calico Cat Records (CAL008)
All songs written by Philip Sutton
©&℗ Philip Sutton
Dedicated to Jennifer and Cindy Miller
Special thanks to Kenji Kitahama and Ronny Pinkau.
Not sure how I’d heard about this band’s fantastic 2014 debut (Before There Were Pictures), it may have been leader/main songwriter Phil Sutton (who spent time in such outfits as Comet Gain, Velocette, among others) who sent me one, regardless I was amazed at the gorgeous, crystalline pop and there’s more of that here on the even better The Stars Seemed Brighter. Working with producer Gary Olson at his Marlborough Farms spot in Brooklyn (where many a great record have been recorded) I’m not sure if Sutton could have picked a more sympathetic producer. I mean, aside from the very strong songwriting it just sounds really good. Opening cut “100 Years” is one of the best tunes Sutton’s written yet, all clean guitar, smooth vocals (he has real distinct vocals that I happen to like a lot) and hooks a plenty, while “Mother Cries” reminded me of prime Mighty Lemon Drops and the guitar lines on the lighter, gentler “I Will Not Pray” had a bit of a Maurice Deebank (Felt) feel to them. Keep listening or you’ll hear other delights like “Coming Up for Air” and and “Goodnight.” While Sutton does the songwriting here he’s got a terrific cast of players including other guitarist Andy Adler and a strong rhythm section as well (Lisa Goldstein on drums, Maria Pace on bass and Suzanne Nienaber adds vocals and while producer Olson added sax his Ladybug Transistor bandmate Kyle Forester added some well-placed keyboards). Suffice it to say if the melodic music on labels like Postcard, Creation and Flying Nun have ever floated your boat then you’ll be ok with this. Released in December of 2017, it was one of my favorites of last year! (note: the vinyl was released via Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten). palelights.bandcamp.com
What a treat and a pleasure it is to review this sparkling and grand new release from NYC’s Pale Lights. The album was recorded with the band’s friend and mentor Gary Olson at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn. I listen to The Stars Seemed Brighter and wonder how they summon such creative talents on all their work, fine, crystalline pop with a gentle dream pop cadence and hints of psych pop. It’s like they channeled Lloyd Cole’s entire catalogue and mashed it up with the best of Flying Nun and Postcard era music. At other times, I am reminded of The Go Betweens and Belle and Sebastian. But beyond all this name checking, guitarist/vocalist Phil Sutton and company create such terrific, original songs that it rises above all the labels that a scribe like me might come up with. And that’s what matters when it comes down to it.
Every song here is worthwhile and excellent. Yes, I am raving like a mad hatter, but this record has taken this listener by storm. When I hear music this effortless and luminous, it makes up for all the terrible shit going on in all the world, and all the dreck I am forced to endure on commercial radio. Take the pretty opener, “100 Years”, which has those lovely organ washes I adore so much, with the caress of Phil’s vocals and the smoothly textured guitar. And oh, “Mother Cries” is awesome. The retro guitar surfs in Veronica Falls territory with a taste of VU hovering in the mix. It also reeks of Flying Nun influence, which is always a great thing. Definitely one of my favorite songs here! “I Will Not Pray” is a sleeper of a tune, one that sneaks up on you with its casual cadence, but it’s the sharp lyrics and delightful backing vocals that snare you completely. “Jean, Bring the Flowers”, the title track of the band’s three song EP, is wonderful. It starts off with a slightly off kilter melody and then that chorus drenches your ears, and wow, this is a catchy tune. I swear I am listening to C86 music, not something that came out a few weeks ago. It’s a modern take on a vintage era, and these guys and gals pull it off with aplomb
“The Army Game” is somber in the way The Chills are known for, yet the grand melody and sunny, tropical feel overpower any chill in the air. “Poor Old Ruby Ellen” again reminds me of the fantastic, dearly missed Veronica Falls. Perhaps it all comes down to love of the Velvet Underground, which is hardly a fault of any of these groups that revere them so. “The Sounds” has that off center vibe that I love so much in music like this. There’s certainly a hook, but it’s less obvious than more immediate songs. “Coming Up For Air” reminisces about the past places lived in, and how much things change. “Goodnight” is a warm send-off to listeners, with exquisite harmonies, great lyrics, and is an all around gorgeous tune. Hats off to Pale Lights for this record, easily one of the best of 2017. Catch up with the band over at Bandcamp and on their Facebook page.
Elizabeth Klisiewicz / The Big Takeover
Brooklyn's sparkle-indie group Pale Lights ended 2017 on a productive note with the release of their LP The Stars Seemed Brighter, which has gained a good amount of praise since its unveiling. Frontman and songwriter Phil Sutton delivers poetic lyrics over Andy Adler's mellifluous guitar and Lisa Goldstein's subtle drums, while Suzanne Nienaber provides the summery harmonies in the background. That sunny feeling comes through in the music video for "Jean, Bring The Flowers" (streaming), a homemade four-minute capture of impromptu backyard jams while relaxing with friends in the sunshine. While you wait for the winter cold to pass, warm your ears and eyes with the video for "Jean, Bring The Flowers" below.
Will Sisskind, The Deli NYC
Sortir un album à la mi-décembre n'est peut être pas l'idéal – trop tard pour figurer dans les top de fin d'année 2017 , trop tôt pour squatter ceux de 2018 ? – mais qu'importe après tout , la musique du quintet de Brooklyn est intemporelle. Il faut dire que les Pale Lights nous ont eus par surprise , faisant paraître ce second album à peine un mois après l'excellent Ep Jean , Bring the flowers (titre formidable que l'on retrouve sur l'album).
Puisant ses racines jangle pop dans les 60's des Byrds ( ces guitares au son cristallin) , balayant le spectre pop à guitares « ligne claire « des années 80 (les groupes estampillés C86 en Grande-Bretagne , l'Australie des Go-Betweens … ) , les 10 morceaux qui composent cet album brillent par leurs mélodies scintillantes et par une orchestration sobre et toute en finesse (les guitares donc mais aussi un clavier discret mais omniprésent) . Le charme et l'élégance de ces chansons tiennent aussi au chant impeccable et familier de Phil Sutton à mi-chemin entre Lawrence Felt et Lloyd Cole . Loin d'être de pales lueurs , ces étoiles-là n'ont pas fini de briller et d'éclairer le ciel des amateurs de belle pop.
Indie Love Songs
La féerie commence avec 100 years qui ouvre l'album dans sa valse de cordes de guitares jouées par Phil et Andy Adler, de basse avec Maria Pace, dotées du synthétiseur avec Kyle Forester ornées de la batterie romanesque de Lisa Goldstein. Le texte romantique, presque old-school fait danser sur ses sujets qui effleurent la mémoire et l'amour. Son auteur la décrit ainsi : "The title is a reference to a line in a biography I read about the poet and artist William Blake, whom I love. The biographer was writing about London at the time of Blake’s birth. He said something like '-250 years ago the stars over London would have been more visible, the night sky would have seemed much brighter-' "
L'envie de danser nous prend quand le tumultueux et irrésistible Mother Cries arrive aux oreilles avec ses arrangements rock garage, solidement tendus pour se marier au tambourin d'Hamish Kilgour. Phil nous invite à son bras pour swinguer le beau moment de I Will Not Pray où il entonne magnifiquement les notes fleuries d'âme pop avec le solo de guitare d'Andy pour offrir sa main à une mystérieuse muse prénommée 'Mary'. Les guitares poursuivent leur scintillement avec la fantastique mélodie You Were My Sweetheart et toujours la voix de Phil Sutton, somptueuse sur le saxophone assuré par Gary Olson. Suit le métaphorique Jean, Bring The Flowers qui représente un temps passé quand l'art représentait la beauté mais aussi une sorte de critique politique, adaptable selon le côté où l'on se trouve "Jean bring the flowers into the room, Jean bring the flowers into the room, We’ll be lifted by those blooms, Bring the sunlight into our darks lives". Le côté de Phil est celui du pacifiste comme décrit dans The Army Game, titre cristallin avec un soupçon vintage sur fond néo-romantique où Phil évoque sa longue lignée de militaires de la british army et des vétérans en général qui n'ont pas toujours la reconnaissance méritée à leur retour de combat. La gracieuse qualité de la composition et la myriade de notes virevoltantes sont percutantes dans Poor Old Ruby Ellen ; La guitare électrique de douze cordes qu'Andy accompagne parfaitement les harmonies vocales alliées de Phil et de Suzanne Nienaber. Le thème leitmotiv qui revient flotter sur les paroles de Pale Lights est le rêve qui gagne toute sa splendeur sur The Sounds via son clin d'oeil à la Jean-Luc Godard. La saisonnale Coming Up For Air est pour moi le petit bijou de l'album. Comme un voyage initial, un retour aux valeurs, décrivant les sensations, les paysages, comme dans un des romans d'Orwell où le protagoniste revient dans son village natal du Oxfordshire, le même que Phil, faisant vibrer le morceau de vérité et de vécu. Goodnight ferme le pas, d'une allure vive et poétique, avec des attaques claires et franches de guitares et une rythmique, des arrangements à la finesse pop pertinente. Pale Lights offre du rêve comme d'habitude, de la lumière et de la romance avec le chant de Philip tantôt chaleureux tantôt fiévreux qui fait son effet sur The Stars Seemed Brighter, à se procurer.
Are you in a dark, semi-hopeless mood due to end of the year deadlines, the pressures and conflicts of the holiday season and the decidedly return-of-the-robber-barons state of politics? Oh, we're sorry - are we making it worse? Allow us to suggest there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is, in fact, a Pale Lights. And what are Pale Lights? Well, as longtime readers of this blog know they are one of the best and criminally under-exposed guitar pop bands in the United States. Purveyors of melodies and lyrics masterfully crafted to last the test of time, the Brooklyn-based band has just released new LP The Stars Seemed Brighter with ten tracks that will make you smile and put a bounce in your step. Worries? What worries? With tunes like this you'll think you won the 'good mood lottery'. Frontman and songwriter Phil Sutton sings with a casual, good-humored sincerity, underscored by female backing vocals, jangling and ringing guitars and an excellent rhythm section. The recordings have a live-to-tape feel we find produces warmth and immediacy. And the hint of country rock in the songs' DNA adds an interesting element as well.
Há muito eu aguardava um novo trabalho do soberbo Pale Lights.
O último sopro da genialidade do quinteto havia acontecido no ano passado, o EP, "Séance For Something", mas foi pouco, explico: atualmente é raro um banda ter um senso poético/melódico tão aguçado como o Pale Lights. Para quem os conhece, principalmente, desde o debute, homônimo, lançado em maio de 2014, sabe do que estou tentando explicar.
Herdeiros da verve de gente como, The Go-Betweens, The Chills, C86, The Field Mice, o Pale Lights enfim nos brindou no último dia 15, com simplesmente um dos melhores discos lançados neste 2017, "The Stars Seemed Brighter" fez a espera realmente valer cada momento. Se uma receita para criar pérolas pop perfeitas, o Pale Lights conhece a receita. Escute por exemplo "Jean, Bring The Flowers" e ateste.
The Blog That Celebrates Itself
Pale Lights – The stars seemed brighter (album) / Jean, bring the flowers (EP) || Two great gifts from from one of my favourite indiepop bands, Pale Lights, just before Christmas! The EP came last week, with 3 amazing new songs, and now the album is here on the fine Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten-label, and I love it. A lot. Sometimes, their sound brings back memories from that good summer years ago when I constantly listened to another of my favourite indiepop bands, The Bodines, and other times I am reminded of the songwriting of The Go-Betweens. Good music and good times. It feels great to be this excited listening to new music. The feeling is rarer and rarer these days, but wow, I am in love again.
There’a an abundance of great tunes coming from Pale Lights, one of my favorite acts that features members of Comet Gain and Crystal Stilts. Just Friday the band dropped the brand new Jean, Bring the Flowers EP, highlighted by the delightful lead track [...]. But, even better news is that we’ll be treated to a new LP titled The Stars Seem Brighter, which comes out on December 15th via Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten. I’ve attached a single from that tune below as well, as you can never have too much of Pale Lights in your life. Looks like the year isn’t quite done with brilliant new music.
Nathan Lankford, Austin Town Hall
Pale Lights: the band who are releasing their second album very soon (Dec. 15) on the German label Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten has a 3 song taster EP titled “Jean, Bring the Flowers” on Bandcamp. And what can you expect? Well, beautiful guitars, timeless melodies, and classy lyrics. The New York (or is it fair to say the Brooklyn?) band keeps showing they are one of the few worthy bands in the area. The three songs on the EP are “Jean, Bring the Flowers” (which has a video), “Streamlined” and “The Soft City”. This last song actually released many years ago on Cloudberry by The Soft City, Phil Sutton’s previous band. I hope now that this EP gets a release, even if it is on limited edition CDR or something. I want my Calico Cat Records collection complete.