Album Reviews

Lanterns On The Lake – Versions Of Us

(Bella Union) UK release date: 2 June 2023

An intense listen dealing with weighty topics, with new drummer Philip Selway on board and songs replete with hooks, it’s also their most accessible album yet

Lanterns On The Lake - Versions Of Us Ever since they released their debut album, Gracious Tide Take Me Home, in 2011, Lanterns On The Lake seem to have been destined for greatness. It’s been a long journey for the Newcastle quartet, with more than a few bumps along the road, but their last album Spook The Herd was the best album of their career, and even garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination.

However, in common with the majority of records released in the opening months of 2020, any promotional push or live shows to showcase the album to a wider audience came to a grinding halt when the covid pandemic hit these shores. It was a shame, as songs like Baddies and Every Atom seemed poised to lift the band to another level.

Three years on, and there’s been a few changes in the lives of Hazel Wilde and Paul Gregory (the two core members of Lanterns On The Lake). They’ve become parents, and also had to cope with the departure of the band’s original drummer Oli Ketteringham. If you’re going to get a new drummer in though, you can certainly do worse as a replacement than Radiohead‘s Philip Selway.

Whether it be Bella Union labelmate Selway’s new influence or simply the result of a new found focus, Versions Of Us is another upward step in the band’s trajectory. Opening track The Likes Of Us builds up beautifully, showcasing one of Wilde’s most powerful vocals, while her lyrics are almost poetic, talking of “gutted streets” and “boarded shops cower in defeat” – it’s an anthem for those battered by the state of the nation, but remains hopeful and resolute – “I won’t let this spark die in me,” as the closing lines put it.

The band’s musical palette keeps on expanding too – while their early material could easily be filed alongside names like Low or Mazzy Star, but tracks like the powerfully propulsive Real Life seem huge and all-encompassing, as if they could be played in arenas or stadiums. It’s one of the best things the band have ever done, with Wilde’s voice soaring and hollering next to Gregory’s guitar. The way the song suddenly transitions back to vocal and piano towards the end is stunning.

Lyrically, there are allusions to uncertainty and dissatisfaction, whether it be String Theory’s talk of multiverses, or the magnificently powerful Thumb Of War which muses whether we’re “alone up on this rock called home, just spinning on and on”. The latter is particularly designed to be played loud, its post-rock stylings sounding incredibly affective when underpinning Wilde’s howl of a vocal.

Selway takes centre stage on Rich Girls, his clattering drums driving the track on relentlessly, as Wilde sings “I swear that I’m cursed, writing these songs is just making it worse”. It may be an obvious comparison, but it’s not a mile away from In Rainbows-era Radiohead. Angela Chan’s string arrangements should not go without mention either, adding even more depth and beauty to Wilde and Gregory’s songs.

Versions Of Us is an intense listen, dealing with weighty topics, yet thanks to the hooks running through most of these songs, it’s also their most accessible album to date. It’s taken a while, but Lanterns On The Lake may just be ready for the big time at long last.

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More on Lanterns On The Lake
Lanterns On The Lake – Versions Of Us
Lanterns On The Lake – Spook The Herd
Lanterns On The Lake – Beings
Lanterns On The Lake – Until The Colours Run
Lanterns On The Lake – Gracious Tide, Take Me Home