Arrange – Five Years With The Sun EP
Record Label: JUKBOXR
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Maybe this is the dumbest way to start a review (and I have had some VERY dumb review introductions), but it’s sort of hard for me to talk about Arrange. When I stumbled upon songs like “Staring at the Ceiling,” “Marker Smell” and “Twelve Posters” last spring, it was at a time when everything around me seemed to haze in and out, much in the same way Malcom Lacey’s aqueous electronics and static-drenched vocals leave us wondering if what we’re hearing is what everyone else is hearing. This sort of vague, take-what-you-want bedroom electronica perhaps works well because it doesn’t so much hold our hand as it does dimly illuminate a few different paths. That doesn’t mean I believe that songs like “Streams / At Night” or “Two Garden Children,” two of Arrange’s most thought-out and crafted songs yet, are lazy in their construction. Giving us some freedom isn’t a cop-out; it’s a chance to form a relationship.
So ok, that went well(-ish). Maybe I can write about this stuff. I just meant to say that Five Years With The Sun still somehow inspired within me the same awe and wonder I first felt with Arrange. As a musical meathead, it did take some restraint to sit and let this album’s instrumental atmospheres (“Mt. Rainier,” “Airplane Notes” and the sexified 80s vibing of “Sun Showers”) nuzzle into my brain. See, Letting Lacey’s songs wash over you is kind of incorrect, despite the smoothness of the synths and the soothing nature of Lacey’s high-pitched moan. On some albums these wordless odes to foggy mornings and deep thinking would be cast aside as interludes, but on Five Years With The Sun they do more than connect us to the meatier songs. Here it’s almost like some sort of 7-act play, where the climactic peaks can only be truly strong when buoyed by their ambient cohorts. So what we get is not just diversity, but complexity.
On “Gone with the Snow,” heavy bass drum kicks are set directly against lighthearted, high-reaching synths. Then there’s the vocals, treated without irony to sound as if they are being delivered at the very moment a person is drowning (or something). And if all of that sounds a bit much, well, I understand. In Lacey’s hands, however, and in a way not completely different than what Bon Iver did with the auto-tuned “Woods” or 80’s experiment “Beth / Rest,” a sort of out-of-left-field chance is not only taken but executed with extreme sincerity. This seems to be the thing I say about every bedroom auteur, but Lacey’s greatest strength will always be his personality. We listen to these one-man dream-pop bands because they all at once offer us something we can relate to as well as autobiographies-through-synthesizer. Lacey perhaps understands these two goals better than most, which could be why his attraction to letting songs fade-in and out of complete comprehension makes us that much more likely to dive in. Rather than remove us from the action, it asks us to write the scene. At its basest, and despite being the work of a sole human, Five Years With The Sun has but one simple takeaway: we're all in this together.
Recommended If You Like: Youth Lagoon, Foxes in Fiction, The Field, M83