On their fifth release, Seattle trio Saeta slips so much sentiment into their unique blend of chamber-pop that a listener may want to stop a few times and surreptitiously wipe his or her eyes. Don’t be ashamed. The soft, nearly desperate tone of singer Matt Menovcik’s voice, the emphatic and elegant piano tones from Lesli Wood, and the plaintive cries of Bob Smolenski’s cello are enough to draw a tear out of the most hardened soul. But fear not; despite coming from a dark place in Menovcik’s life, the theme of Else Another Light May Go Out is that of hope and love and all the things that make escaping those dark places worthwhile.
The album starts suitably dark, drifting from an almost painfully rich introduction into “It’s Not the Time,” on which Wood’s emphatic piano and Menovcik’s hoarsely crooned vocals set the tone for the album. Yet lighter moments predominate as well, such as Wood’s soaring backing vocals and light acoustic guitar. I’m struck by the hope in “You Will Rise” and its soaring chorus by the end, and here the strings blend beautifully with the acoustic guitars, especially at the song’s climactic ending. Wood takes the lead on the lighter, softer “Sunbeam,” her voice so beautiful and rich, making quite the contrast with her pop-punk alter-ego Ms. Led. (Menovcik also has a second band in Rope, Inc.)
“Where Will You Find Love” is nothing short of dramatic, swirling around rich acoustic guitar, light piano, and soaring strings, as Menovcik and Wood sing together, their voices blending surprisingly well. It moves nicely into the more powerful “Promise Me Still,” which rides strong piano lines even more than the rolling guitar, creating a piece that’s dark and powerful. The album’s defining moment is the glorious “Can’t Imagine the World Without You,” a track so breathtakingly beautiful it’s sure to spawn several listens (and vital inclusion on mixes intended for someone special). The chorus is so deep and haunting it will make you weep, and the soaring operatic vocals that run through the ending of the track are so powerful, I’m inclined to hit repeat even though the album has two tracks left. It would have been a nice ending, but the rich and lush “About You” is a nice and sentimental finish as well, and the powerful ending is another of the album’s most brilliant moments.
It continues to amaze me how Saeta makes such powerful and rich music out of so few musicians. Flawless production is vital to create the rich emotional character of this band’s releases. On the strikingly powerful Else Another Light May Go Out, I’m inclined to listen at night, eyes closed, and let the music carry me along with it. We all dark places we go to sometimes, and albums like this can help get us through.