To say I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Chad VanGaalen’s newest album, Light Information, would be an understatement. Being a long time fan of VanGaalen’s unique indie rock sound and generally unimpressed with most musical releases of 2016 and 2017, my hopes for this album have been set very high. I had the vinyl + digital copy for this album on pre-order through Flemish Eye (a small Canadian record label) but unfortunately it hadn’t arrived by the time I had started typing up the review. In the meantime I used Google Music’s copy of it but I waited on uploading this so I could include images from the vinyl. For this review I will first examine the art, listen through the entire album once and then listen a second time as per usual.
The album art suits VanGaalen’s sound but I can’t say it’s an album cover that I would be showing off to my friends as something different and memorable. I get the feeling this album will have more of a space-y sound to it and that the grotesquely beautiful world that he creates in every song.
Light Information opens up to “Mind Hijacker’s Curse”. It starts the album with an upbeat indie rock track with a synth melody playing alongside the bassline. The catchy poppy instrumentals are accompanied by rather dark lyrics that draw you further into the album. Seamlessly, the album transitions to “Locked In A Phase” featuring a strong guitar riff that builds off of the first track and the lyrics call back to imagery of the album cover with lines like, “Come sit in the fire, ’til you believe it”.
I don’t think anything could really prep a listener for the third track which opens with the eerie playing of a couple different piano keys in a very structured beat. It is a strange addition to the album, as track 3/12. “Prep Piano + 770” is heavier on the synth than in the first track. It really is an unsettling track and gives a very “2001: A Space Odyssey” feel. A bit hopeless, very sci-fi and never ending.
Abandoning the eerie piano, “Host Body” wastes no time jumping into a psychedelic track with lyrics that remind me of ones found particularly on his Soft Airplane album. The next two songs on the album feel like throw backs to other albums of his as well. While “Mystery Elementals” is a catchy rockbeat that I feel would appeal to anyone who loved the Shrink Dust album. “Old Heads” reminds me a lot of Diaper Island which if anyone asks – it is one of his more under-rated albums. These three songs could really make or break this album depending on how much you like musical nostalgia.
“Golden Oceans” is a faster paced more surf-rock song. A couple listens in I’m not sure how I feel about this track but it seems like one that would be a lot of fun live. So I will reserve judgement a bit on this one.
The following song is a laid-back indie tune which shows some subtle progression on the core sound VanGaalen is known for. “Faces Lit” is very much a more refined tune and the fine tuning and tweaks that are the result of his many years of experience no doubt.
The very first track I heard off of this album was the next track, “Pine and Clover”. At first I was a bit concerned that that this album wouldn’t be to my tastes even with a colourful and artistic music video. Now that I have heard this song more times than I can count, it has grown on me. It is hard to put my finger on exactly what of it didn’t appeal to me the first few times.
In the last stretch of the album, the album slows down with “You Fool” and “Broken Bell”. Both songs have a sadder, retrospective feel to them. A very appropriate feel for the end of an album and contrast to the synthesised opening tracks.
“Static Shape” closes out the album on a slightly more upbeat track. I can see this mellow track being a show closer as well. The highlight of this track is definitely the vocal effects. This isn’t to say that the song is predictable by any means though. The mixture of different sounds from start to finish is a nice collection of the previous tracks and finishes with jarring sounds that fizzle out.
“Locked in a Phase”, “Host Body”, “Pine and Clover” and “Faces Lit”
I know it’s absolutely no fault of VanGaalen’s or Flemish Eye for the delivery of the vinyl so I won’t be judging the album on shipping speed.
Light Information is a solid addition to VanGaalen’s discography and takes you on a guitar and synth driven journey. From the lyrics to the instrumentals, it is an album that is sure to appeal to most long time fans. Some new sounds are experimented with in this album too that show the ever changing sound of his content. For me, an ideal album contains 10+ songs and Light Information hits that ideal with a healthy 12 tracks and a run time of approximately 40 minutes. The artwork on both sides of the vinyl sleeve was more of a pleasant surprise than anything and much different from the simple gold, black or white sleeve I was expecting. The clear vinyl is a unique touch and I believe is exclusive to pre-orders or simply in a very limited supply.