Release Date: Jun 8, 2010
Record label: Carpark
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
It’s nearly impossible to avoid drawing comparisons to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear after hearing Light Pollution’s full-length debut -- hell, even the press release does -- but the melodic foundation within evokes the distant, dreamy siren calls of shoegaze innovators like Slowdive even more so than the aforementioned, modern-day indie darlings. Still, credit must be given to LP mastermind Jim Cicero, who at age 23 proves he’s wiser than his years by crafting a set of compelling tunes that sound surprisingly distinct despite the past and present musical inspirations that could’ve just as easily overwhelmed it. Though the story goes that Apparitions was born out of “a long, stoned, agoraphobic winter spent isolated in a heatless warehouse west of Chicago,” almost all nine songs here defy the record’s chilly origins.
With Apparitions, comparisons can easily be made to Animal Collective’s later albums, along with many of the so-called “Chillwave” artists on Light Pollution’s home of Carpark Records. Like Beach House, Toro y Moi, Montag, and Dan Deacon, there is a similar underwater vibe of washy instrumentation and psychedelic echoes spread throughout Light Pollution's debut. For the making, Jim Cicero lived alone in a huge, 30,000 square foot warehouse on the outskirts of Dekalb, IL.
“Light pollution” is defined as “any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste” (thanks Wikipedia!). So what exactly does that have to do with the recent Carpark signing from Chicago? All it takes is one listen to their hazy, layered psych-pop to figure out exactly why the band chose Light Pollution as their name. On their debut album, Apparitions, the quartet utilizes a traditional anthemic indie rock sound, but colors it in with atmospheric sound effects, strings, and bits of noise to make for a (mostly) unique approach.
Frontman James Cicero’s grandfather lived on the breadline when he moved from Spain to Chicago to perform in a big band. His tale didn’t warn off his grandson, who dropped out of college to start psych-popsters [b]Light Pollution[/b]. But was it worth it? Well… their careers adviser-flouting debut is in the mould of the greats rather than carving a new sound.
With its debut, this Chicago-based, neo-psych four-piece nearly achieves the trippy sonic masterpiece it seems to have envisioned. Referencing '60s pop, '70s psychedelia, and '90s shoegaze, Apparitions often hits its mark. "Good Feelings" is all blissful vocal, swirling guitar, and percussive cacophony. "Oh, Ivory!" is almost Beach Boys-esque with its innocent melody, accented by backing piano and strings.
Due to the eccentric roster that Carpark Records has accumulated over the years, Chicago's Light Pollution stand out amongst their labelmates because they seem completely normal. On their debut LP, Apparitions, they serve up a good old-fashioned helping of ascendant song structure, washed-out synthesizer textures, and new wave basslines, all swaddled in heavy reverb. And by "good old-fashioned," I mean circa early 2005.
Thud Thud-Thud. Crash. Thud Thud-Thud. Crash. So the recognisable heartbeat of shoegaze goes, stoically pulsing through at least 25 years of dreamily fuzzed up sounds, its appearance a constant reminder that you are indeed listening to A Shoegaze Album. And we’ve been fine with that, for the most ….
Chicago-based quartet Light Pollution and I share a home state in Illinois. It’s a prairie state, largely flat and heavily agricultural, whose landscape seems to impress more by its vacancy than by any more typically exciting natural wonder. It’s a landscape that can be easy to dismiss and to ignore, but it can be strikingly beautiful in its quietude and has apparently made quite an impression on the guys in Light Pollution.