Lantern By Sea – Rim of the World
What makes a good album; what it is, or how it makes you feel? Ideally both, I’ll admit, but the point stands that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. An album could boast impressive musicianship, insightful lyricism and earworm melodies and yet still not elicit any emotional connection whatsoever, slipping past you like water off a duck’s back. Yet sometimes we may stumble across albums that on paper don’t do anything remarkable, but manage to earn a place in our hearts all the same. I’m a firm believer that the right record at the right time can provide just the magical escape you never knew you needed, and sometimes the door to Narnia is hiding in the most unassuming of wardrobes.
That being said, from a visual standpoint Rim of the World is far from unassuming (and a damn sight more interesting to look at than a wardrobe). The simple yet stunning painting of a nautical vista that adorns the cover instantly captured my attention and imagination, and stands as a strong contender for this year’s best artwork award. You’re instantly whisked away to a serene shoreline long before pressing play, and opening track ‘Golden Trees’ doubles down on the sense of escape with its ambient sounds of rolling waves and gulls overhead. The light melodies and slow build towards a triumphant close is reminiscent of Bear’s Den and the softer side of Manchester Orchestra, while the propulsive drums and wistful impassioned chorus of ‘Ghost Story’ veers into more anthemic territory.
The record starts strong with what feels like a call to adventure, an open invitation to take to the waves and chase whatever lies beyond the horizon. Sadly the rest of the record doesn’t quite manage to maintain that same level as energy, but Utah based band Lantern By Sea do still manage to pull a couple more tricks from up their sleeve. In the quieter moments, like ‘Withering Sign of the Lamb’ with its bittersweet whistled interlude, and the stark folk of ‘Fisherman Song’ against a backdrop of falling rain, the band do a superb job of making the empty spaces feel part of the song. As though the vast shoreline is still there surrounding us even when we’re focusing in on a single voice. The record also boasts a couple of excellent slow-burners in the form of ‘Gallows’ and closing track ‘Nomad’. The former growing in intensity till it throws off its folk wrappings to unveil a fiercer beast beneath, while the expressive bass line of the latter acts as your guide alone a winding path toward a firework display of climactic percussion.
There’s a real spark on this album, though it does occasionally flicker and falter on a few listless filler tracks – the most notably skippable being the overly repetitive refrain of ‘Newbury Park’. Rim of the World treads a familiar path, one you will doubtless have heard before and one that you’ll likely have heard done better. Its call to adventure promises a voyage beyond the horizon, but in reality delivers a day at the beach. Even so, I can’t deny I feel its pull on me all the same. After all, when life feels grey and tedious, a walk through the spray along the shoreline under an azure sky sounds like quite the uplifting adventure, even if you’re not actually venturing all that far. Lantern By Sea show a great deal of promise with their debut album, and I’m keen to see where the next adventure takes them.