Lights & Motion – Save Your Heart

Artist Lights & Motion
Album Save Your Heart
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Deep Elm Digital | Itunes
Web Facebook | Deep Elm
Label Deep Elm Records
Release 12 November 2013
Rating: Must Listen (100%)

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We are all a part of this crazy thing we call life for a reason. Some people spend a lifetime of soul searching and discovery just to figure out who they truly are. Some connect with their inner desires early in life but lose sight of everything in the struggle between want and need, forced to do jobs they weren’t meant to do to make ends meet. Truth is there are only a lucky few of us here on earth that not only discover ourselves early in life but are also able to live our lives doing what we feel we were put here to do. Christoffer Franzén was born to make music. He knows this because it’s his music that made him discover just exactly who he is.

This year has been a whirlwind for Franzén, the driving force behind a little solo project you might have heard of called Lights & Motion. Inspired and ready to face the world, the project debuted with its first full length album “Reanimation” in January to much critical acclaim, instantly setting the bar for what has become a stellar year for the post-rock scene. In the months following the release of ‘Reanimation’, it felt like the only album people were talking about on a consistent basis. To be perfectly fair I’m not even sure if its popularity has even crested yet to this day. It puts a smile on my face when an album is able to garner attention outside of its respective genre and that’s exactly what ‘Reanimation’ did as word spread of something beautiful sweeping through the post-rock genre.

Franzén could have chose to ride out and capitalize on his newfound success as he sit atop the post-rock world. But he didn’t, nor was he satisfied with his achievements. He spent his time dreaming, writing and in the studio, where he felt as though he belonged.

” Being able to dream is a human right, and every day I do my best not to lose sight of that dream that is still so very clear to me.”

His words speak volumes.

So here we are some ten months later and I sit in a dark room, headphones affixed as I relaxingly listen to my twentieth or so play through of his latest masterpiece “Save Your Heart” , due out everywhere November 12th. The 11-track, 40-minute follow up to “Reanimation” was graciously offered to us for review by Deep Elm Records, who is keeping this album under much tighter lockdown than any of their other 199 previous releases. It is no coincidence that this album just happens to be Deep Elms 200th release in their impressive catalog.

Reviewing music of this caliber and beauty is a responsibility and an undertaking that I hold dear to my heart. So here it goes. “Reanimation” is a guitar focused journey through spiritual rebirth and triumph. “Save Your Heart” is a keyboard focal exploration to the depths of the soul, teaching us to remain true to the things we love, cherish and desire to be. Separately each of the 11 tracks capture the spectrum of the human element: cheerfulness, sadness, happiness, heartbreak, desire, tragedy, passion, the list goes on. In doing so, they spread roots as each song (or rather, anthem, which is really a more proper word to describe each track given how damn inspiring this album is) brilliantly flows into the next as the album’s true beauty begins to blossom as it reaches its culmination.

The listener is warmly greeted back to familiar territory with the intro track, “Heartbeats” as sensual piano is overtaken by increasingly present synthesizes that create a safe haven for the mind to wander. As marching percussion and free flowing guitar work enter the mix the song comes to fruition in a serenade of glorious crescendo filled emotion. “Heartbeats” serves to bridge the gap between ‘Reanimation’ and ‘Save your Heart.’, but that’s as far as the comparisons go as this is a much different album than its predecessor, as first indicated by “Ultraviolet”, a short two and a half minute composure that gives us our first taste of the stellar keyboard abilities of Franzén. You can really tell he felt most comfortable showcasing his emotions behind the keys this time around, whereas in “Reanimation” each guitar piece oozed with emotional prowess and distinctness and took center spotlight. I find it refreshing to see a multi-talented artist shift focus from one instrument to another at ease without changing the key foundation of their music.

“Sparks” slows the album down with a heartfelt soft multi-layered guitar introduction as synths loom in the backing layers while drums occupy the forefront of the soundstage. Again this is just more of the classic Lights & Motion that was so prevalent on the first album, so as you can expect the song builds in both sound and energy as it should. Faint vocal harmonizing enters without notice before slowly moving forward to the mix as the track concludes in burst of momentous joy. “Shimmer” follows and is a testament of Lights& Motion’s ability to do more with less as the number is predominantly synthesizers and a persistent drum beat that is met by a very casual soft-spoken guitar that just sort of hangs around doing its thing, never quite getting in the way, but ever so present.

All of these elements I’ve talked about so far finally come together in one culminating fusion within the track “Snow,” which is where the album truly starts to take flight. It is the only track on the album that feels as though it would be at home on either album and the inspirations from the work on ‘Reanimation’ are more present on this track than any other. The underlying layers of the track are eerily reminiscent of the murmurings found at the beginnings and ends of the earlier work of Sigur Ros and when combined with the multi-layered keyboard work and the heaviest finale on the album, “Snow ” is a song that has only gotten better after each listen. It is the type of song you can hear a thousand times and still hear new sounds each time. It is a track that repeatedly has given me goosebumps on numerous occasions. A+ .

The Piano driven “Bright Eyes” is my go to track on ‘Save Your Heart’ and has emerged as my early favorite. Franzén’s innocently shy vocals in which he croons “Come Bright Eyes…” amidst a twinkly xylaphone (or perhaps Kinderklavier? I can never tell) backdrop that is quickly followed by a swift build up is unequivocally the highlight of the album. Franzén has an angelic voice that is criminally underutilized on both albums. If you follow this blog you know that I’m ultra critical on vocals in post-rock. Lights & Motion is on the very very exclusive list of bands I would like to see more vocals from in the future.

If it wasn’t apparent yet that this album is very much keyboard centric, “Crystalline” is the track that will all but seal the deal. The keys in this track are alluring, enchanting and chalked ripe with the emotion of heartbreak and solace. What makes this track unique however is the 180 degree finish it manages to make without skipping a beat, evolving into a heavy breakdown of raw guitar and semi-aggressive drumming. “Orbit” is next to follow and serves a short transition track leading into “We Are Ghosts”, yet another number on the album that opens with a strong piano presence before blossoming into a beautiful flurried arrangement of instruments. Have I mentioned that I love the keys on this album? I feel like that is all I’ve talked about the last few paragraphs. I apologize if I’m gushing a little but they really are the most stellar element of this album.

“Atlas” gives us a synth dominate track of epic proportions that we’ve come to know and love out of Lights & Motion. I think this song serves its purpose as an ideal set up for the album’s closing track, which happens to also be the title track. Clocking in at just over two minutes it is the energetic culmination of what has been a storybook year in the life of young Franzén. An artist, a dreamer and a kindred spirit who has been fully exposed to the world through outpouring his soul and essence into his music. No track on either album feels like filler, everything serves purpose and has been given equal attention down to the slightest details.

I will say this about ‘Save Your Heart,’ –  This album feels much more personal than ‘Reanimation’. ‘Save Your Heart’ is an extremely polished album that is yet another feather in the cap of Deep Elm Records, but ‘Reanimation’ was coated with so much studio gloss that it feels almost too perfect. This time around Lights & Motion’s second effort is more so about the creativity and maturity of an eager and talented musician and that is where ‘Save Your Heart’ really shines and earns its Mettle. Lastly, it would be impossible for ‘Save Your Heart’ to capture the initial magic of its debut predecessor. There was no expectations for ‘Reanimation’ when it was released so naturally upon first impact there was that intangible experience you feel when you know you are apart of something magical and memorable.

‘Save Your Heart’ is burdened by the responsibility of delivering upon the success of “Reanimation” and while it certainly delivers on every level and you couldn’t ask for a better follow up, listeners will come in with a their own expectations this time around. When you combine that with setting the bar as high as he did the first time around, Christoffer put himself in a position where no matter what he did his next album would be tasked with trying to surpass that first initial Lights & Motion “experience” that I honestly don’t believe can be trumped. With that being said, ‘Save Your Heart’ and ‘Reanimation’ are 1a and 1b to me. Not even by the tiniest of margins would I prefer one over the other, they are both on the same level, that being two of the greatest post-rock albums ever released. That in mind, ‘Reanimation’ will remain near and dear to my heart and most memorable of the two simply because it was the first, not because it was the best.

Never have I felt so in tune with the message that is being expressed to me through music. It is truly a work of art when a musician is able to connect with the listener in a way that transcends the music itself. Franzén’s message of never losing sight of the things that you love has hit extremely close to home and with good reason. Each song is a brilliant journey that reinforces the idea that we were put here to do the things we love and be the people we want to be, not to be the people others perceive and tell us we should be. “Save Your Heart” delivers the message that we should aspire to live each day as though it is our last through touching , inspiring, melodramatic and engaging anthems that could relate to any moment in life.

Quite simply put, ‘Save Your Heart’ is likely my co-album of the year, it is an absolute must listen and an instant classic that caps off the single most impressive year for an artist I can remember. This album has brought joy to my heart and I am obsessing over it the same way I did with ‘Reanimation’. I end this review simply by saying that I am infinitely thankful Deep Elm trusts me with their most prized album to date, because enjoying this album three weeks in advance was the best early Christmas present a post-rock enthusiast could ever ask.