|Album Review: Elijah Wolf - Brighter Lighting|
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The sophomore album from New York troubadour, Elijah Wolf, is a great folk tale that’ll take you from mountain-high to valley-low in just over a half-hour. Brighter Lighting has the same feeling as Bob Dylan and The Band retreating to Big Pink to record The Basement Tapes. It’s about re-tuning your life; returning to your roots and finding happiness in the simple things.
The record is a star-studded collaboration with the help of producer Sam Cohen (Kevin Morby, Andrew Combs), multi-instrumentalist Photay, and drummer Josh Jaegar (Fleet Foxes, Angel Olsen. Also featuring guitar aficionado, Nels Cline (Wilco), whose Country guitar explorations shine vividly as one of the core strengths to Brighter Lighting as a whole. According to Wolf, after his previous solo album, he wanted to use this new work to “build a musical community to share in the creative process."
The album kicks off with “I Find Light”, a bright, rolling open that is a warm welcome for the adventure to come. Wolf sings about getting picked up by a car and setting off on a journey to light just over the horizon—and it’s as if we’re in the backseat with him, heading out of the city, off onto a retreat in the warmth of the woods. You’re hearing this for the first time, but it feels incredibly familiar, and comforting, as if this had been floating around you all this time, and you just had to sit still enough to finally take notice of it.
The title track is free-spirited and fun, and one of the great singalongs of the album. “Brighter Lighting” has a euphoric piano intertwined with a snapping snare beat, and a solid structure making this one of the more joyous moments on the album, and a catchy tune to sing along to. Its music video, directed by Dylan Kaplowitz, is a Super 8 adventure through Wolf’s hometown of Phoenicia, New York, and an exploration of the neighboring Catskill mountains. The guitar of Nels Cline shines brightly, giving truth to the light of Brighter Lighting. Everything about this track is amusing and uplifting.
"Brighter Lighting is a record about taking a moment to look out and observe the things around you that we miss in our daily lives. It’s a record about deep reflection of the past and being still in a life that moves fast." - Elijah Wolf
“The Point of Trying” is a classic folk tale with modern trappings. With precise guitar work and an honest story, this track is a retrospective ballad full of sorrow and soul. It’s lyrics voice introspective themes of hesitancy and concern, and yet, there’s something liberating in saying “What’s the point in even trying?” Wolf acknowledges that, and fits the song to that feeling, letting it build you up and leaving it off in a more cheerful manner. After this track, there is a downward slope in the energy of the album, gradually growing softer as if Wolf is singing with more intention and wisdom this time.
Songs like “At Times / At Night” and “What Does It Mean, To You” are stripped-down to their bare bones, with a soft-spoken tenderness that’ll fill your heart. There can’t be Brighter Lighting without having some darkness first, and tracks like these point to the duality of the album as a whole. Elijah Wolf is able to create memorable moments across the whole work, each with a different style, all working together for an emotion-filled compilation of Folklore.
The album is incredibly honest, well-spoken, and personable. As the work progresses, it seems to garner more introspection, offering a soothing mid-album meditation with “Mount Rainier Interlude” that places you on the peak of a mountain, looking at the glorious world below your feet. As the highest peak of the westen Cascade mountain range, Wolf uses the essence of nature across America to inspire hope and well-being in a sound that isn’t tied down to any specific person or place. It’s not quite music for singing around the campfire, but rather a solo retreat into the forest. This album is a lot of fun, but also very thoughtful. Next time you’re driving through the woods, put on Brighter Lighting - it’s the perfect soundtrack for it.
On March 10, 2021, Wolf will perform the entirety of the album via live stream, alongside Sam Cohen and Photay. Tickets are available for purchase here.
Brighter Lighting is out now, available for purchase via Trash Casual Records.
Photo by Eric Michael Pearson