It’s been a few years in the making due to the unique way a self-financed independent music project takes a lot of time for publicity, singles, touring and general organisation but it’s now a real thing and currently my album of the year(s): Make Me Believe In Hope by Bright Light Bright Light has been released. It’s been fun to follow the progress from being Rod Thomas (a man with a busking past, a love of loops and a great solo EP), to Bright Light Bright Light : a new pop star for the modern era who is inspired by pop’s past but has created something that is more than the sum of its influences. I’ve seen a CD single packaged like an old 7″ record which keeps confusing me, several more straightforward CD single releases, download-only EPs, an American market acoustic EP, oodles of remixes (some of them giveaways), a selection of mash-ups of his music or words with 90s dance pop, a great single launch party show with all sorts of goodies and now finally the actual album. So, is it any good?
1. Immature : The album starts with a song that begins all mellow and introspective but then adds layers of programming over its calming sounds. A good start that represents the feel of the project.
2. Feel It: It starts with one of those beats circa the 1989-1991 pop dance explosion era, develops into a classic BLx2 song about having hope to be in love then adds a surprising diva wail vocal part that reminds me of the remixes from Pet Shop Boys ‘Very’ album. My favourite of the album songs that are new to me and what you would call a big club tune if you did that sort of thing.
3. Love Part II : The first physical single, released on the Popjustice label. Upbeat positive vibes with an appropriately euphoric video directed by Tom Levinge posted further down this page.
4. Waiting For The Feeling: This recent download single is very inspired by the dance pop of the early 90s and while very good is probably my least essential track on the album.
5. Cry At Films : Originally the b-side (if using old record money) of Love Part II, this track was pretty perfect and one of my favourite BLx2 songs. It’s had a little tweak and Del Marquis from Scissor Sisters now takes vocals for the second verse as well as the guitars. The extra electric guitar around the 03:14 part is unbeatable and you really should check out Del’s solo EPs as they’re as good as his band’s work.
6. Moves : This one starts with a Kleerup synth influence so it’s more modern in its sound, making it the song most likely to be compared to Robyn. Luckily Robyn is excellent and this sad song works well.
7. Disco Moment : My favourite single from the album as it uses all the most essential elements of what makes a great BLx2 song: it’s a sad / brave face break up in a club to electropop moment, helped by the catchy and slightly smutty ‘you make it so hard’ lyric (also used on the tote bag from the single launch which can get some strange looks).
8. A New Word To Say: The new single is also the oldest single so it’s a bit special to me as it’s what got me hooked. The verses remind me of Your Summertime by Raissa, which is a good thing, and the “got love but you don’t know what to do with it” vocal hook is another “you make it so hard” with its catchiness summing up the song.
9. How To Make A Heart: A change of pace for the last three songs on the album although this one builds up from the chilled opening, peaking at 02.46 with the additional synths and layered vocals. Lovely!
10. Debris: The acoustic one, featuring Allison Pierce from The Pierces (who are of course very recommended). More guitar and twinkly noises than the previous piano version on the Blueprints EP so now I can’t decide which I prefer.
11. Grace: A new song to end the album and one that does a reversal of the themes of a lot of the earlier songs as Rod becomes the heart breaker but in a sad-about-it way. The music gives me Twin Peaks flashbacks in a more electronic style and it’s a great end track for a very impressive debut album.
A line from Rod’s recent interview with Stephen Sears in Idolator sums this album up : “I didn’t want to make just a ‘pop’ or just a ‘dance’ record, so each track has something organic in it, be it a piano, a guitar or a string section. I wanted it to have a heart.” Very apt as Mr Sears is the man who introduced me to Rod a few years ago on a marvellous night out in London and there are numerous “heart” moments on the album. Let’s take a look:
Immature: “In the storm of solitude, my one reliant friend that makes the heart beat faster then slows it to a crawl again”
Feel It: “You’re the reason there’s still hope in my heart.”
Cry At Films: “How to change a heartbeat is so much easier said than done.”
Disco Moment: “You seem to change your mind in a heartbeat, but still you try to keep your arm somewhere around me, well not like this.”
A New Word To Say: “Looks like it’s trying to be gentle but it broke my heart and so I’ll just give it back.”
How To Make A Heart: “How do you make a heart light up until everything is fireworks, until the heart is yours?”
Debris: “And it’s not that a heart has been broken, just sad when the flames start to freeze, and the sparks that we had can no longer light up our debris.”
I give this album 4 and a half Mogwai out of 5.
How about a recap of the videos so far?
A New Word To Say (directed by Hollie Newton):
Love Part II (directed by Tom Levinge):
How To Make A Heart (directed by Gavin Leisfield):
Disco Moment (directed by Jody Wilson):
Waiting For The Feeling (directed by Alun Davies):
There’s also a range of different formats to be bought from Rod’s site, including a ‘B Sides, Remixes & Rarities’ CD that includes Falling (theme from Twin Peaks), the excellent b-side Being Sentimental and a whole load of remixes. No sign of the much-loved songs Blueprint (with its interpolation of Womack & Womack ‘Teardrops’), uber-dancey Good Times or sample pads-ahoy Same Dream but you never know when they might appear.
Blueprint (solo with piano):
Debris (studio version 2009):
Good times (live):
Cry At Films (solo with piano):