Album Review: Brevity – A Light Sleeper

Album: Brevity

Artist: A Light Sleeper

There’s a band in Chicago called A Light Sleeper that you should hear. They’re jazzniks, no doubt, and they’ve clearly listened to their share of A Love Supreme and Kurt Rosenwinkel.  But fear not, average music listener, these are not tunes that exist only to make Berklee students say “oh man, check out that chord!” The most obvious thematic characteristic leads this reviewer to recommend them strongly to fans of that other crisp composer from the frozen north, Sufjan Stevens, because this music repeats. Droning, spiraling, looping, tripping over itself, this band eats its tail and loves it: the riffs and rhythms march along next to each other, and sometimes sort of near each other; sometimes crossing paths, shuffling in and out of phase, alternately Sonic Youth and CSNY. It’s every bit as iterative and incremental as the dialog in Big Lebowski, and equally as charming to the stoned and not-so-stoned alike.

The new album is called Brevity, and at just shy of eighteen minutes and half of its predecessor’s eight tracks, the title is appropriate, but this is not music that needs to last for days to be appreciated. Its charm is in its depth, its elegant tones, and the careful tension-building of the guitar and drums blossoming into Maria Hernandez’s floral saxophone arrangements. This effort is smoother and more assured than previous album Amicability, and while it doesn’t have the rawness or immediacy of that recording’s standouts “In Praise Of 4-Letter Words” and “To Be Too Good For One’s Own Good,” it more than makes up for it in grace and confident pacing. The two vocalists sound more comfortable in using their voices as melodic and poetic instruments as opposed to just textural elements, a change that makes itself apparent a little over two minutes into opening track “Haste and Happenstance” and then bursts forth fully-formed on the album’s best (and best-named) track, “Oh My! Alan Was A Greedy Baby.”

This album is recommended for people who like building little castles and then washing them away: for the tinker, the baker, the mandala-maker.  And like the plant before the kick, it augurs well for future releases from this group.

Listen to A Light Sleeper