Wan Light – Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else

Wan Light
Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else

Here is this week’s delicious international cake recipe: take two Swedish friends, pour sufficient amounts of orange juice over them for a sweet sheen, throw in dashes of high vox, soften the batter with gentle acoustic melodies and sweeping electronics, and stuff with catchy English lyrics that conjure images of technicolor adolescence and offer surreal scenarios for the future. Yes! Wan Light’s debut album, Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else, is all that, and the sweetness won’t require visits to the dentist.
Wan Light is Krister Svensson and Manne Karnock from Stockholm, and in September 2002 these two gents formed the group they named after a song by Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice. Their debut album’s opening instrumental, “The Strophe #1,” is an enticing beginning, with layered synth lines over a slow piano. Then, tribal beats flow with Svensson’s high pitch and the chorus sounds happily laid back on “Get it Straighter.” With its slow, aquatic tones, “It Doesn’t Have to Be in Your Lifetime” builds like Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe in their more reflective moments, but the chorus is closer to Mercury Rev’s style than Pet Shop Boys’ usual and pleasant bombast. Wan Light slowly, evocatively repeats its album’s title in the chorus.
“Freedom Fighters” is completely stripped down, with Karnock’s piano perfectly complementing Svensson’s spacey but focused vocals, which you may understandably confuse with Todd Rundgren singing love songs in the 70s. “Awake, Drunk and Average” is the best song on this outstanding album. The track’s stanzas have a military cadence with electronic tweaks, but the chorus is where Wan Light shines brightest. You immediately think of a 70s apartment party with a lot of worn people at four in the morning suddenly sparking to dance with sharp elbow and hip movements. “Awake, Drunk and Average” is funny, but it pleases without stinging anyone lyrically.
In contrast, “In the Heart of Sarah Freeman” is melancholic and more personal, analyzing someone’s mindset and emotional climate. This sweeping, gentle track recalls The Kinks’ masterpiece, “Waterloo Sunset,” with its theme of isolation. “In the Heart of Sarah Freeman” ushers in a few mostly instrumental segues, and then “Astronauts” flows through your speakers with an otherworldly tranquility that would sit comfortably as the opening track to a Saint Etienne album if Svensson and Sarah Cracknell switched vocals. The sampled declaration, “Here come the astronauts, wave to them,” at the beginning and end of the song is perfect.
“Landmarks and Houses” has a heavy, incessant beat and the quickest pace on Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else, drawing you in with Karnock’s playing and Svensson’s more dominant singing. “Canvas Man” will especially please fans of Nick Drake and Mercury Rev, both vocally and lyrically. This reflective, sad song takes the intricate psychoanalysis of “In the Heart of Sarah Freeman” and expands its scope with striking comparisons of the title character and other people in his world. “All Things Go Round” brings life lessons and nostalgia to the fore with a country style, and the guitar playing is remarkable.
The album closer, “The Soul Sisters,” comes off like a mild combination of electroclash and lounge music, with deep bleeps and a slow pace. It’s an effective ending to an excellent album. Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else is a captivating, well-played, and beautiful album from start to finish. Wan Light has created an ambitious record that doesn’t overreach, and the results are gripping and calming successes, without exception. Let’s Wake Up Somewhere Else shoots acoustic and mild electronic streams across the listener’s aural spectrum with sufficient diversity to consistently interest and impact. It’s a brilliant debut. Expect more great music from Wan Light.