Even before tracking started, the Seattle-based, dream pop sextet Half Light wanted to call this collection of songs “(That Was) Soul Crushing At Best,” as it summed up how everyone’s lives were going at the time. Borrowing words from author Cormac McCarthy, vocalist Dayna Loeffler says, “Half Light would have time to think about that choice of album title.” In brief, the next five years included recording in a hotel room, one-way plane tickets, emergency soldering with a hairdryer, a computer taking final mixes to its grave, lost jobs, broken relationships, and the departure of half the band members.
Recorded in 2010, “The Lost Album” is a moody collection of 11 songs (10 originals and 1 Black Sabbath cover), that offers “gauzy, impressionistic” (The Delete Bin) soundscapes to soothe the listener’s crushed soul.
After Half Light’s 2008 self-release “Sleep More, Take More Drugs, Do Whatever We Want,” blew up Tim “TimEbandit” Powles’ computer during mixing, the band was surprised that he was willing to work with them again. This time however, instead of just receiving tracks to be mixed, Tim was on board pre-recording. His early involvement was a huge benefit for the band which was able to pay more attention to the individual components of the songs as they were created. It also meant that many of the vocals were recorded with Tim manning the controls in-between The Church’s tour stops and that Tim could add his signature dreamy psychedelics to the mixing as well as guest vocals and instrumentation here and there. NadaMucho described “Sleep More” as, “Druggy guitars, a cello, spectral female harmonies, a thunderous rhythm section, everything you could need for a classic 4AD-style blissout.” The music on “The Lost Album” both refines this recipe and takes the blissout a step further into space.
Perhaps because Soul Crushing is inevitably going to happen, Half Light’s music was again in final mixing when a second computer of Tim’s blew up.
“The Lost Album” turns out to be a doubly appropriate title for the collection of songs when one considers the subject matter of the opening track, “You Love Wrong.” As lyric writer Dayna says, “The characters in it either fall deeply for bad people and ideas or fail to follow their interests in the right people and ideas.” Either way, the characters in all the songs find themselves lost and struggling with the consequences of their poor decisions.
Guitarists Brian Ackley and Scott Muhlbeier, who have been with Half Light since 2006, seamlessly trade rhythm and lead duties. In fact, it is their unique and concise lead lines that transport the listener to other realms. Dayna Smith (bass and backing vocals) lays down melodic bass lines while Jeff Baars (drums) provides an understated rhythmic backbone. Dayna Loeffler contributes ethereal vocals and the occasional pedal steel guitar. Cellist Barb Hunter adds lead lines and textures throughout.
The single “Broken Again” is a tale of disintegration and coping presented in the style of Mojave 3 that features pedal steel, acoustic guitar and cello. While Half Light loves Mojave 3, they also love Slowdive and “My First World Problems” gives a loving nod to shoegaze. Half Light wrote “SLO” while resting in a city park on a tour stop in San Luis Obispo in 2008. It melds jangly guitar with rich vocals from both Daynas in an upbeat pop tune about “dreaming slaves.” The album ends with Half Light’s rocking and spaciously mixed cover of Planet Caravan because as guitarist Scott
says, “Sometimes listening to Sabbath is the only way to feel better.” If your soul is simply craving soothing rather than a cure, let Half Light’s “The Lost Album” warm you.