Lower Lights Burning Review
Holden brothers Graydon and Michael make up the two-piece folk-rock outfit Lower Lights Burning. Their self-titled, 13-song debut album is a lyrically strong disc, easily listened to repeatedly. While some songs sound as if they could be worship music (see first two tracks, “Next Blind Step” and “Scars” with lyrics like “Adventure starts when God breaks all my plans” and “But what gives me strength and makes me free/Is God inside the joy and the peace”) others are a mix of folk-rock and, at times infused with more laid-back country vibes.
The elder Holden brother, Graydon, started writing in high school, but it wasn’t until later that drummer Michael pushed his brother to play the songs he had written. Inventing their sound in 2004, the band has come a long way since then. Originally starting as a rudimentary two-piece, (strictly guitar and drums) their sound and album evolved, eventually consisting of harmonica, ukulele, piano and orchestral arrangement for a complete musical soundscape.
“Next Blind Date” is the first track on the album, beginning solely with percussion before Graydon enters while gracefully singing, “Give me time I’ll grab my keys/We can drive till we hit the sea/Take my arm we’ll walk on the sand/Adventure starts when God breaks all my plans.” Singing with such ease, Graydon draws the listener in as each lyric seemingly rolls off his tongue. In fact, much of the album provides Graydon’s soft and easygoing vocals, sometimes reminiscent to a mix of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson.
Tracks like “Still Holding On” have a different, slightly country vibe to it. Full of emotion and complete honesty, the Holden brothers tell a heartbreaking tale while singing, “I am utterly un-kept/It seems I haven’t breathed for weeks/The best I can do these days is keep the bottle out of reach.” Another track, “Am I Too Late” Graydon wears his heart on his sleeve as he sings, “I’ve come up with new reasons to drag myself from bed/And I’ll do what I can now girl, to shake you from my head.”
What separates Lower Lights Burning most from other bands is their powerful lyrics. However, on some tracks the lyrics and music need stronger vocals. Certain lines beg for attention from the listener, but instead are glossed over by soft singing. One example is “Stir,” a powerful song with even more prominent lyrics. “What is it in us that makes us want to be more?/What is it in us that keeps us from that goal?/How is it my darkness still battles my light?/If you’re still seeking would you share what you find?” Reminiscent to Switchfoot with the questioning lyrics throughout the song, a little more edge from Graydon could have helped get his message across while complimenting the beauty and prose of the lyrics. By a simple crescendo in his vocals and picking up speed on certain tracks, Lower Lights Burning would add more versatility to the album, drawing more listeners into their cleaver and heartfelt lyrics.