Loney Dear makes a welcome return with ‘A Lantern and a Bell’. Released via Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records, the nine songs have a stripped-back marine theme with Emil Svanängen’s beautiful (and, at times, haunting) falsetto being joined by tender piano tones, discreet double bass and diffused water sounds played at dark low frequencies.
The album opens with ‘Mute/All Things Pass’, a sparse yet stirring piece that finds Emil looking back on a time he ‘walked out on a young night’. ‘Habibi (A Clear Black Line)’ follows with more DIY production elements but still a dose of wistful nostalgia as Emil remembers the ‘good times’ and how he – or more likely the character he is portraying – used to ‘travel big oceans, boats with new names’. Briding the gap between chamber and baroque pop, the song finishes with a raising of the glass to anyone else enjoying an incredible voyage: ‘To the poor and the weak ones, to the happy or drunk’. There’s a rhythmic flow in the vocal delivery on ‘Trifles’ – a real headphones listen with the gently gliding piano backing up the fascinating storytelling – before ‘Go Easy On Me (Sirens + Emergencies)’ has a swirling carnival-style sound that hints at bands like ELO, although there’s a vulnerability in the message once again as Emil pleads: ‘Go easy on me now’.
‘Last Night/Centurial Procedures (The 1900s)’ has a romantic tone that will break even the most cynical of hearts with Emil first saying: ‘Last night I met you, you were looking like the first time’ and then recalling how he: ‘Kept that scarf that you wore’. ‘Oppenheimer’ has a more eerie take as it tries to capture the loneliness of life on the seas: ‘A trickle of tears weighting down to the ocean, the sea level rose at a flick of the fingers’. The 90-second ‘Darling’ works as a Mercury Rev-style choral interlude with observations on ageing (‘Darling, we start to get older’) while the penultimate ‘Interval/Repeat’ has a sonic sound that finds Emil first discussing dreams and records before claiming ‘I have no more desires’ – it feels like this voice has come to terms with their lot in life. The closing ‘A House and a Fire’ continues with the honest observations and seemingly tackles the importance of being there for each other when going through the grieving process: ‘We breathe the ashes when the memories burn, when the memories burn away’; ‘No one’s gonna carry our sorrow. No one’s gonna take you through the night, no one’s gonna carry you through this’.
‘A Lantern and a Bell’ is a gorgeous and touching record that you’ll want to taeke a journey with.