New Sounds: usLights drift in and out of electronic-pop reality on ‘wæs’


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Many artists relate their albums to seasons. A few years back, in a conversation with Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, the songwriter was explaining the potential release schedule of his electro-pop project’s upcoming album, but he couldn’t pin it down. If the record developed as a spring record, he reasoned, it would be released in the spring; it it were an autumn record, it’d be held up a few months to align with its personality. It was a feeling, mostly.

That’s the case with usLights’ new album wæs, although, instead of its vibe and feeling pertaining to a season, we’ve aligned it mostly to a part of the day: morning. The dreamy, cloud-like pop structures on the 11-track album, complete with four instrumental interludes, is the sound of dawn; a new morning rising, a sense of optimism and focus, a result of late-night drive and focus manifesting itself as a new day breaks. It’s a cinematic musical vision immersed in contracts and conflicts, all floating in and out of its own meticulously crafted reality.

Of course, this certainly fits the bill, as usLights have always been a bit of a scene outlier. Last spring the Massachusetts trio made a spirited and unexpected run to the Rock And Roll Rumble finals, the latter a case more of an electronic-pop group creating music to gaze skyward towards spoiling what’s traditionally a look-straight-ahead guitar-rock party. usLights have always done business on the fringes of whatever we’re calling a scene these days, able to drop in create contrast on whatever bill they join up on, crafting emotive electronic-pop that weaves in and out of a cinematic horizontal path.

After a string of singles, debut album wæs is a more appropriate means of digesting usLights’ long-form vision. From the cascading glow of “God Save The Queen” to the almost yacht-rockian “Fumes,” the songs here tell a story that can be easily narrated by the listeners’ own personal thoughts and experiences. Not unlike M83’s ability to transport an abstract human feeling from one thought to the next, usLights set a mode and tone that’s unfulfilled by simply digesting “singles,” and the lyrics here serve as a sort of chapter titles for whatever depth the listener allows him or herself to drift down in. Each track, simply put, is its own gateway.

And that gateway, for this interpretation, begins at the break of dawn. Where it takes from there, over the course of the day, is up to the listener. Stream wæs in its entirety below via Bandcamp, purchase the vinyl through Mind Over Matter Records, and view usLights live and in the flesh tonight (August 2) when they play a free show at Cafe 939 in Boston and then ONCE Ballroom in Somerville on August 25.

Featured usLights photo by Kayla Chin.