An album review: Givers, “In Light”

I’ve already mentioned the Lafayette, Louisiana band Givers a couple of times on this blog, including a short review of their great set produced by the Savannah Stopover at the Jepson Center after TEDxCreativeCoast.

This week’s release by Glassnote Records of their first album, In Light, has generated impressive buzz, with one superlative being trumped by the next.

The signature song is certainly the infectious first one — “Up Up Up”. As with so many other tracks, the furious percussion is in charge, while the airy, upbeat lyrics soar above. It’s a great opening, but its impact is lessened a bit by similarities to other tracks.

The chorus of “Meantime” — “Don’t get stuck in the meantime / There’s no such thing as the meantime” — reflects the joyous, seize-the-day energy of the album as a whole, but I found myself wishing for a few softer moments, like the dreamy finish to “Saw You First”.

When the two leads aren’t singing in tandem, Taylor Guarisco’s vocals take over more often Tiffany Lamson’s. Guarisco has an almost adolescent giddiness, while Lamson sometimes conveys an easy sexiness, like at the opening of “Ripe”, one of my favorite tracks. “Atlantic” is another highlight — a song that gives Lamson’s lilting voice some space to resonate. When the beat picks up, it doesn’t feel forced or jumbled as happens at other moments on the album. Still, I’d like that song better if the vocals were pulled a little more forward in the mix.

I’m talking so much about the vocals because I wanted to hear more of them. In Light is brilliant at times, but it seems a bit overproduced and overcomplicated. Just because the talented band members are capable of letting loose on a variety of instruments drawing upon a variety of styles, that doesn’t mean that they need to do so in every song.

And the emotional tenor needs more variation. Happy and sunny are fine emotions, but they lose their kick when there’s nothing to compare them to.

In the wonderful song “Go Out at Night”, Guarisco’s vocals get a rare moment to rise above the complicated arrangements, and the song becomes one of searching and persistence: “I’ll go out at night and hope that the stars shine my life right”.

Well, it’s pretty clear that the stars are shining on Givers right now. But the music might get sharper and deeper if those stars dimmed from time to time.

The entire album can be heard here on NPR.