Steadily emerging from Manchester’s unsigned scene, and starting to gain momentum, Black Lights are an alternative band that show promise and originality. Frontman Jamie McCool (yes, McCool) shows that cocky Manc lads can write soft, melancholic songs, often verging on a Portishead level of gloom and self-deprecation.
The EP starts with title track, In My Soul, which more or less follows the Black Lights blueprint. The first few notes on the piano sound slightly rushed, but as the vocals come in and the song finds its groove, the overall sound is very assured and tuneful. Before you hit the 30 second mark, you’re already in to the first chorus, which is the best possible way of keeping listeners interested. There are too many bands trying to find their big break who have minute long intros, and still expect to get radio airtime, but there’s none of that here. Some light texturing from guitar, backing vocals and strings lifts the chorus just the right amount, giving it an ambient boost, not too little not too much. Well done, McCool and the gang.
Track 2, Wake Up, follows much the same pattern: soulful vocals, soft strings and gentle rhythms coming from guitar and piano. The vocals on this track are more pitchy than before, with imperfections making themselves apparent, however, this may not be a bad thing. The nature of the song is very raw and emotional in its performance, so the slips in pitch work in creating a very intense overall sound, which is no small achievement without drums or bass being in the mix.
Tracks 3 and 4, If I Can’t See You and Open Your Eyes, again follow the same structure. The piano stays soft, the guitar stays jangly, and the vocals stay introspective and sorrowful. It seems like Black Lights have found their way of doing things and they don’t want to change. The smooth sound of If I Can’t See You (my personal favourite) is topped by a fantastically constructed string section, creating a powerful climax to the EP, before the down-tempo finishing song.
My only problem with this EP is that the Black Lights guys seem to stick to their formula to such an extent that it all merges into one long song. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great songwriters, but could maybe do with a new slant. I couldn’t help but wonder what this EP would sound like with a huge electronic drum loop behind it.
My final thoughts on the EP? Great tracks to have on in the background, but maybe they could do with a bit more grunt.