This is the second album, after 2007’s eponymous debut, from The Shaky Hands. The band come from Portland, Oregon: that peculiarly fertile breeding ground for bands of a certain indie/alt-rock persuasion or ethos. And in such company as fellow Portlandites The Shins, Modest Mouse, The Decemberists and Elliott Smith etc etc, they don’t seem out of place.
Look beyond, however, the obvious tropes of “jangling guitar” (Air Better Come), “interesting variety of percussion” (Love All Of) and “slightly bluesy feel” (Loosen Up, Wake The Breathing Light) and a more interesting album, and band, begins to emerge. Many of the tracks here have a pretty dark slant to them, with imagery that belies the lightheartedness of the music.
If you take a fairly random sample of lyrics used, like “We are living in war time / In my head and outside” (from Loosen Up); “Everyone is lost” (Neighbors); “I breathe what others breathe / But I don’t feel the same” (No Say); “I’ve been abused / So I’m living in hate” (Show Me Your Life), a really pretty bleak picture of alienation and despair appears.
This is an album with a curious atmosphere and charm of its own, which is in part thanks to Nicholas Delff’s vocal delivery, which is pitched somewhere between a more-tuneful Bob Dylan and a world-weary Julian Casablancas. His voice works particularly well on Show Me Your Life – one of the album highlights, which weaves a tale of a born cynic taking tentative steps to lose the attitude and start up a relationship or at leastmake a connection with a potential lover (“It was only a date / Just like others do”).
Another distinctive feature used on several occasions is a sort of mantra-like repetition, sometimes accompanied by eastern-styled rones (A New Parade, Air Better Come, Love All Of), which offsets the more straightforward and expected guitar/bass/drum and occasional piano stylings.
It’s the more downbeat, minor-key tracks that were the least successful, with World’s Gone Mad and No Say in particular making the pace of the album drag rather in the middle. Those with a more perky, fast-paced feel like Loosen Up, the lovely We Are Young, You’re The Light, Show Me Your Life and the almost singalong album closer Oh No were more successful. Fortunately, these outnumbered the slower tracks; overall Lunglight is an enjoyable release.