Peter and the Wolf – Lightness

You wouldn’t be able to tell from the sober, low-key voice of Brian Redding Hunter, mastermind behind the gloriously understated Peter and the Wolf, but the earthy, folk-infused songs found on Lightness, his first official release, threaten to buckle under their own emotional weight at the utterance of each languid, crestfallen phrase. It could easily be chalked up to the album’s delicate, minimal instrumental backbone, but Hunter’s sentiments carry an immeasurable weight, alleviated by his desirable ability to approach flashbacks with an amiable kindness rather than with an outlook of scorn and morosity.

At its worst, the album is shameless escapism – a conscious blacklisting of the outside world, allowing but a few privileged individuals to glimmer as sublime subjects in stately explications of sentimentality. At its best, which Lightness consistently reaches for, however, the album is an austere portrait of delayed correspondence and fractured relations. Analysis of Hunter’s words feels nearly misanthropic; the act is equivocal to picking apart, line-by-line, exchanges between remote companions. To decompose and delve in to an abstracted Hunter’s benevolent verbalization is at once unseemly and intrusive. The album’s glory rests in its puerile ability to avoid an agenda of any sorts. To listen to Lightness is to peer into an individual’s diary – Hunter has compromised privacy for the enlightenment of others. I, for one, feel grateful. When he calls out to an absent other with “Oh my God, oh my God / You’d love it here,” it feels as though a personal postcard has been transposed directly to song, a truly touching gesture.

Acting as a foil for the intrusive qualities an audience assumes when listening, Hunter’s instrumental accompaniment is slight and, at times, barely noticeable not only due to the sheer gravity of his subject matter but also due to its own inconspicuous manner. The principal part of Lightness hinges around meek yet organic acoustic guitar playing, though this is at times met with ramshackle percussion or a howl of backup “ooh”s and “aah”s for an eerie effect.

Hunter says this album is “about that feeling when you wake up all sentimental from a dream and you want to call your friends and ask, ‘How’s your health, how’s your dad, how’s travels?’” Does it fulfill this intrinsic purpose? Undoubtedly. But, beyond of that, the question remains: why does it merit listen outside of his circle of friends? Lightness is both refreshing and relaxing, and the bit of escapism in which Hunter indulges is articulate and smooth, and, clocking it at just over half an hour, doesn’t dabble in excess. A much recommended listen for fans of deeply personal folk music.