It’s a wonder how exactly Light Pollution wound up on the hallucinogenic Carpark Records. It’s not that the band doesn’t venture into experimental sounds, but they’re nowhere near the oddness of labelmates Keith Fullerton Whitman, Dan Deacon or Toro Y Moi. In fact, unlike any of those weirdos, Light Pollution have a genesis in the mainstream – (the third track on Apparations, Drunk Kids, opens with a Brill Building ‘boom, ba-boom tish’) – their psychedelic and experimental brushes are only the skin of a pop-minded skeleton; the results, as expected, are acceptable at best.
At their most effective, Light Pollution is basically doing their best Animal Collective, which at this point in experimental music, is about par for the course. The combination of Panda Bear‘s effect-drenched echo and Geologist’s ultra-sequenced dream-house has become so ubiquitous, it’s hard to fault bands for trying to recapture that lightning; after all, it’s not like the sound is pass� yet. And Light Pollution do their impression well, ranging from the sleepy, Bluish-esque shoegazer Deyci, Right On to the Feels-era swirl of Ssslowdreamsss – hitting their obvious influence right on the nose while never flat-out plagiarizing.
The problem is about half of Apparitions is near-immediately forgettable, and most of these moments come when they’re not embracing the almighty Animal Collective with open arms. When Light Pollution is just trying to be a ‘rock band,’ with limited electronics, feedback-squiggles, or lashes of reverb, they’re quite boring. Take Fever Dreams, for the first three minutes of its running time, it’s an uninspired mish-mash of Slumberland guitars and overpowered bass, but when the song gets to the back third, a spaced out, My Girls-like synth-loop takes over and James Cicero’s treated vocals become a dozentimes more interesting. It’s a bit of an odd predicament, the band needs to explore outside of their influences in order to be taken seriously, but they vicariously become a lot less likable as soon as they aren’t aping Animal Collective.
But still, Apparitions is merely a debut album from a young band who know their way around electronics and textures a hell of a lot better than most other young bands. And although at times it seems like they’re copying right off of Merriwether Post Pavilion’s paper, they muster just enough creative vision to avoid lawsuit-level infringement. But still, you have to wonder where exactly the band is going to go from here, if they continue down their current path they might just pen something as universally great as a My Girls or a Fireworks, but it’s still not going to have that fresh, left-field splendor that their influences had. If they try to pursue their personal vision, it’ll take a lot longer, (and a lot of songwriting maturation) to arrive at anything even as good as this album. It’s a complicated decision, and one that will naturally be interesting to watch develop – either way, they’ve got the talent for it.