Lantern

As far as second albums are concerned, aiming high is always the goal, but shooting for an LP that contains 14 songs? That’s laudable in its stature. Modern convention will tell you to trim it down. I mean, we’re living in a digital age, so getting something out that’s compressed in tracklisting is ideal, right? Well, don’t tell that to Lantern. And if you do, don’t expect them to care because their sophomore album defies the preconceived notions of releasing music in the digital age. Be glad they decided to buck this trend – Black Highways & Green Garden Roads, which could be construed as being a concept album, needed the space to expand itself, and the listener is the beneficiary of this.

Lantern, from Philly, fit in well with the revivalist sounds from the west coast. The album very much dips in and out of lo-fidelity, with a track like “He is a Pinball” keeping just above that threshold. While discussing sound engineer Peter Woodford’s influence during the recording, Emily Robb said he would suggest things get slightly weirder because he knew the band was willing to take that risk. On “Another Turn,” you get just that, as power acoustic combines with grey shadows to form a pysch punk force of doom.

It really seems like there wasn’t anything thrown at them that they weren’t willing to test. Surf punk (“Black and Green”)? They’ve got that locked down. Trying to fit the album together really is like a puzzle. “Wait, Wait” is a gothic sock hop about rolling right on away from love. A little bit of Wurlitzer heightens the spirituality of the feeling behind the track. As the track fades off when the old Cadillac disappears over a knoll, it reappears as an audible version of the classic game Spyhunter. The car that split town? It’s back on “We Are Here,” and it’s on a freak folk mission to either engage in or put an end to sinister business. The line of distinction is a bit unclear. This is where you fully comprehend where the black highways start to come into play.

As the acid drop Western cloud hovers, you kind of wonder if the tracks are set up in a way to make the album play out like a particular piece of pulp film. We tend to lean towards a yes, as each track carves out a scene, and that gets us to dig the album even more. Something about that mission makes it all the more interactive and engaging. Sometimes you see ghost towns, sometimes you see waves rolling onto an ocean, and sometimes you see the images of rock ‘n’ roll that freaked the Greatest Generation out.

One such example of this is the alt-psych-classical instrumentation of “Dervish.” You get some sitar tunage, and it’s cutesy and folky. Then the next thing you know, it’s “Hey, what do you think the love child of Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan would sound like?” Slamming harmonica breakdowns on “Gravel” induce hysteria. Good luck fighting it off.

It’s in the latter half of the album that you start to see where those green roads appears. Chugging right on down the line, “Green Garden Road” is rolling blues, like stepping off a busy street corner and finding yourself at the doorsteps of a house down a dirt road in the Delta. The penultimate track, “BLK HWYS” allows for both worlds to exist cohesively. There’s just so much 70s arena rock riffage that aims for the mountain tops that you just have to get along with it. Together, they melodically lay down in a field of flowers before heading back to the mothership.

Black Highways and Green Garden Roads is available for pre-order now at Lantern’s bandcamp page. Joey Smith