The music of Portland’s WL has a transcendental quality. The three-piece band is releasing its second full length album Light Years which explores themes of growth, temporality, and the liminal stages of existence. Vocalist Misty Mary, guitarist Michael Yun, and drummer Stevie Nistor, who all play keyboard alongside their designated band-roles, craft a boundless narrative that meditates on the transitions between states of being. Their songs slip from one space into another: both musically and metaphorically.
The drums on opening track “Pink Cloud” roll in from a distance. In fact, the entire record feels far away, almost as if a sheet of glass exists between music and listener: it’s there, it’s tangible, yet maintains a quiet restraint. The song rings out like a cassette played underwater, waves mediated by waves. The lo-fi, visceral textures created by synth meld with minimal percussion and repetitive, echoing vocals. References to water float throughout the record, a symbol often associated with memory.
There are obvious post-punk and darkwave influences bleeding into Light Years, songs that are particularly reminiscent of bands Cocteau Twins, Tears for Fears, and Broadcast. Mary’s vocals hover lightly over droned out, droopy melodies. Saxophone samples waver throughout the LP, giving it a kraut-pop feel. Genre-wise, WL’s music is impossible to pin down. Each song weaves between categories, creating a soft space for a sound that is familiar, yet distinct.
The first half of track “Feeling Down” uses three words to convey its message: “I feel, I feel, I feel down, I feel down.” The repetition seems to lull the listener into a depressive, sinking state, much like drowning while starring up at the surface of the water. Yet, the second half of the track arouses elation. It begins to resemble a Pink Floyd song as Mary meticulously repeats her mantra over whiny saxophone.
Track “Refraction” is tangy and upbeat, a misty psych-pop ballad that sounds like a mashup of several My Bloody Valentine Loveless tracks. “Mercury” has a Lynchian vibe, evoking a dramatic scene from Lost Highway. It leaves the listener disoriented, as if they’d been thrown around in the seabed. “Trash” finishes off the record with heavy guitar riffs that demand attention; if the rest of the LP is caught in the tide, this is the track about survival, about coming ashore.
Where Light Years lacks is in its ability to be innovative; it seems to look towards the past rather than strive for the future, or rather, it gets stuck somewhere in the middle and is bound by these two poles. Nonetheless, Light Years is opulent. WL’s record deserves a listen for its reference points as well as its exploration of the intermediate.