Oak Island, the sophomore effort from one-man-project Nightlands, is a trip into the wide-open expanses of Dave Hartley’s mind. Listening to this album, I was taken on a journey into what can best be described as space. The caverns, the alien vistas, and the sprawling soundscapes of layers upon layers of vocals. If all of this sounds dramatic, that’s because it should. Oak Islands is a dramatic work, and if any of these metaphors sound intriguing, then you are in for a fantastic ride.
In talking about his side project’s debut effort, Dave Hartley described Nightlands as music that he heard in his dreams. This anecdote continues to apply to this sophomore release, as each song bends genre conventions, with horns, synths, guitars, and a multitude of voices creating a beautiful (if unnatural) landscape.
Some songs hint at the vastness of Pink Floyd, while others (such as “You’re My Baby”) are entirely reminiscent of The Flaming Lips, but in general, the album is a mostly ethereal affair. However, “ethereal” certainly does not mean “simple.” This album, two and half years in the making, has depth to it despite some songs being built around loops or repeating vocal lines.
The opening track is a literal invitation to go on a journey: “I’d like to invite you / for just a little while / to a place I used to go when I was only seventeen / when I really had to know / however far it was / between a thought and a dream.” These lyrics repeat, echoing dreamily through soaring melodies and setting the mood perfectly for the rest of the album.
From there we move into “So Far So Long,” a simple, lingering song with a cool bossa nova groove. With the signature vocal tracks soaring over the beat, it’s a great example of what this album feels like. It even ends with the music fading out to what can best be described as “sci-fi laser noises.” It’s a cool tune.
The standout track, though, is a song called “Born to Love.” It has elements of all the best that Nightlands has to offer. Gentle, delayed acoustic and electric guitars are layered over a relaxed beat, and the chorus brings out a lighthearted joy, complete with a horn section and retro “doot-doos.” It’s a killer track, and a perfect song to drive to, especially if the weather accommodates lowered windows.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first started listening to Oak Island. Based solely on the cover image of a modern-day Tin Man, I was anticipating a detached, robotic work, but instead, I found that this Tin Man has a heart (see what I did there?) and that the spaces that he lives in are very welcoming indeed. I took a chance and went on a journey with Nightlands, and I’m glad I did.
Nightlands will be coming to LA on March 9th for a show at the Echoplex, and tickets are still available.
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