Portland experimental pop act AU have been on an unpredictable ride since their first and eponymous album, changing shape from baroque grandiose instrumentals to sombre lo-fi folk. One thing remains, AU are free of any pigeonhole-attempts and Both Lights makes that sentiment ring even more true. Album number three is urgent, misleading, sometimes reassuring and, the next second, weirdly threatening. Some might say schizophrenic.
Let’s talk about contrast: the opener ‘Epic’ is a thunderous math-rock odyssey where folk instruments (trumpets, banjo) try to get their way, anthemic pop track ‘Get Alive’ sounds like a soundtrack for the next Olympic Games with its deeply solemn vocals. Sometimes, songs like the electro tribal ‘OJ’ or the chaotic piano-driven ‘Why I Must’ seem to have so many ideas popping out the melody can’t find any room to breath.
Technicality is something this band can provide any time, and it can be a weakness when songs are left to their own craziness and the melody is striving to be heard. But the ambitious vision of singer songwriter Luke Wyland can lead to some ecstatic moments of grace, whether it’s on an organ ballad (‘Crazy Idol’) or an ambient dreamy soundscape (‘Go Slow’).
Both Lights is what it says, both personalities of AU, a festival of emotions and genres that leaves the listener restless but also intrigued.