Brooklyn-based producer and digital creator Johnny Shankman is not exempt from the hardships of the human experience. Best known as White Lights, his pursuit of happiness begins with creation and has no finite end. His artistic mantra traverses across a plane of inspiration and human connection. Borrowing from the musical meditations from artists by the likes of Kid Cudi and Joji, White Lights’ sound fits in effortlessly with the anti-pop pioneers. With over 1 million streams across his discography, the genre-bending musician capitalizes on his recent triumphs with his debut album NUMBSKULL.
The genesis of the project, “In Water” is an easy first listen. The track swells with soul-stirring synths and subtle percussive elements, seducing listeners into the dream world that White Lights has built. The track swings into “Simulation Breakdown,” a defining, textured track that was released as the sophomore single to the album. Using “Simulation Breakdown” as a launch pad for the intended insights of NUMBSKULL, the next two tracks “Too Much To Dream” and “Floating World” contemplate cyclical thoughts in relation to the obscured world we live in. Followed by an ebb and flow of crystalline vocal work that phases in and out of indie-guitar riffs, “Worn” is NUMBSKULL’s alternative gem. Following an ascent of stormy synths, narcotic trap beats, and atmospheric vocals, the album begins parachuting back to earth with two similar-sounding singles “Dirt Nap” and “Body Trap.” The album comes to a conclusion with the aptly titled “Everything At Once,” a necessary final cut that draws from the musical elements of each track before it and digs into feelings of emotional chaos.
On the record's title, White Lights explains, "I felt numb for a long time — I felt like my whole skull was numb. I was in such a dark place with my health that I tuned out the world around me. The process of writing and recording this album alone in my room slowly brought sensation back to my head and let me be present once again. It helped me realize that it is possible to find comfort within my issues. I hope to spread that message to others who are struggling to happily exist as themselves."
Although each track in the album is distinct from its predecessors, NUMBSKULL yields an obvious uniformity. A glitchy and often brooding 12-track LP, NUMBSKULL surveys more than the intricacies of synths and reverb. While the electro-R&B project is steeped in impressive sound design, the greatest takeaway lies in the music’s deeper meaning. "It's neither an R&B album nor a hip-hop album, but the echoes of inspiration are there — recommended if you like Lil Peep, Joji, Aries, Kid Cudi, or The Weeknd," White Lights says in a statement.
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