After 2011 turned into a huge Kurt Vile/War on Drugs love-in, 2012 gives the third wheel of this Philadelphia musical family his time to shine. Shai Halperin – briefly a member of War on Drugs alongside Vile after inviting Adam Granduciel and David Hartley to join his own solo project The Capitol Years – is back on his lonesome.
But the Capitol Years are over. After a long period in which he disappeared from view, Halperin has turned on the Sweet Lights to herald his return, and turned back the clock to write and perform every note himself.
The result is an album of soft, lush pop that will surely appeal to any fans of Vile/The War on Drugs but has the potential to spread its wings a little further. Seemingly reinventing much of his own record collection, there are obvious nods on here to the likes of Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys and the Beatles (the latter most obviously ‘Are We Gonna Work It Out?’, a direct response to the Fab Four’s early hit).
Lead single ‘Endless Town’ shows off his catchy hooks as well as anything, although as odes to his hometown go, it’s unlikely to get picked up by the Philadelphia tourist board: “Anyone with any sense would never go/So why would you go to this endless town?”, Halperin sings.
Vile made a brief appearance in the studio during recording, and shows up again in the form of the trippy psychedelia of ‘Ballad of Kurt Vile #2’ before the four-part ‘Here Comes The Son’ closes out the album in near-epic fashion.
Sweet Lights is a wonderfully textured, balanced record that steals from the classics with abandon. Like all the best albums do.