REVIEW: Bright Light, Bright Light – ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’
By: Ben Norman
A unique voice in today’s saturated market is a blessing indeed, but couple that voice with a vision and you have something truly special. Welsh singer Rod Thomas, otherwise known as Bright Light Bright Light, may just be the male voice poptronica has always needed. His blend of caressing melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics resonates with listeners in a way that most artists wish they could. And even though it’s a fairly obvious comparison, to call Bright Light Bright Light the male Robyn is both a compliment and a supremely adequate explanation of what to expect. Granted, the tiny Swede packs a spunky punch that Thomas hasn’t latched on to yet, unfortunately not yielding his equivalent to “Konichiwa Bitches” or “Fembot,” his album Make Me Believe In Hope is everything you’d wish for from this new talent.
Other comparisons are easy to make when discussing Bright Light Bright Light: the music and voice emulate contemporaries Frankmusic (first album), Darren Hayes (explorative disco sound), Pet Shop Boys (intelligent, emotive lyrics), and Owl City (gentle production) among others. Those are the strongest male counterparts, although Bright Light Bright Light forges his own path. Take his debut single, “Love Part II,” a retro-tinged cascade of symphonic synth-pop that, titularly, implies a “Love Part I.” Of course, the lyrics reveal the reasons for the title, being that Thomas has already experienced the Part I and is exploring his second chance at love. The upswell of emotions within the track as he proclaims, “I’m in love again!” syncs beautifully. It’s a strong track, and ample preparation for the follow-up track, “Disco Moment.” While “Disco Moment” could be an apt description for the offerings on the album, the track itself describes the deterioration of a relationship. “Love Part II” might be something you’d find among Kylie Minogue’s tracks, but “Disco Moment” is a clear example of a tried and true Robyn track (“With Every Heartbeat,” anyone??). Pulsing synths and a dramatic production drive Thomas’ lyrics home in a compelling manner, creating the curious sensation of feeling terrible while wanting to dance.
Make Me Believe In Hope has much to offer to the casual listener, and plenty to offer someone looking for someone new in the pop world. From beginning to end, Bright Light Bright Light aims his music straight at your heart. Whether his routes are indirect is of no matter. He hits your heart whether he begins from tapping foot or from attention to his lyrics. Not only is this apparent in his first two singles, but in subsequent singles “Waiting for the Feeling” and “A New Word To Say” as well, the former being more aggressively electronic and the latter dwelling in waves of funky retro goodness. The album’s overall vibe is one of updated nostalgia, swaddled in production quirks and lyrical curveballs that make Bright Light Bright Light truly entertaining to listen to. Tracks like “Feel It,” “Cry At Films,” and “How to Make a Heart” all gracefully exemplify these qualities, while “Moves” plays like “Disco Moment Part II.” Additionally, tracks “Debris” and “Grace” provide interesting counterpoints to the entire album. “Debris” is a short, haunting and minimal guitar-based track and “Grace” has a beat structure and flow that is slower, more punctuated than the rest of the upbeat structure of the rest of the album.
All of this combined basically means that Make Me Believe In Hope is one of the best pop albums of the year. Bright Light Bright Light’s talent is obvious, not only in his own released works but also in his remixing. The album is full of mood music, most songs at odds with themselves in a compelling and dramatic way. “Disco Moment,” “Grace,” “Moves,” and “Waiting for the Feeling” are all commendable standouts on the album. In today’s saturated market, Bright Light Bright Light makes me believe in pop again.
Released June 2012 on Blue Team / Aztec Records.