new music: stream the uplifting self-titled debut from meridian lights #soundcheck

September 26, 2014

Listening to the forthcoming debut from Meridian Lights, I can’t help but feel like I’m doing this wrong. There’s something about the earnest minimalism of Yohimbe Sampson (also of Game Rebellion) and Bradley Valentin that belongs at a campfire, or at an outdoor festival just as the sun’s setting. These headphones just don’t feel right. Influenced in equal parts by classic rock, soul, folk, 90’s alt rock, and reggae, Meridian Lights makes the sort of heartfelt and unpretentious rock that feels intimate and personal even at its most epic and dynamic.

Words by Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

On opener “Scars And Breaks,” an almost Radiohead-esque classic rock guitar riff collides with 2nd wave post-punk menace before Bradley’s raspy but stunning voice takes center stage. (Yeah, I just called Radiohead a classic rock band. Deal.) While drums, synths, and cellos all round out the song, the focus throughout this record is the interplay between Valentin’s vocals and Sampson’s acoustic guitar. That focus on minimal stripped down songcraft is nearly unheard of in 2014 rock. Their debut EP focused on hyper-produced electro alt rock, but the shift down to a more minimal live sound suits them well. The genuine optimism of “OK, Better” is almost shocking in contrast to the current fixation with cynicism. “Everything is OK / But things could get better.”

While the duo peppers the records with intimate moments and lowkey singalongs, when Valentin is allowed to flex his vocals, they shine brightest. The albums biggest highlight comes from the country-tinged indie folk jam “Rodeo.” The full band kicks in on a bittersweet uptempo that recalls The Decemberists in their rock god mode. Meridian Lights proudly describe themselves as “articulat[ing] the optimism that exists in triumph and trial.” And that optimism is infectious. But truly, it’s most exciting when they focus on the optimism at the heart of trial. In our ultra-cynical age, music this unironically joyous is in short supply. But when Yohimbe and Bradley can look pain square in the face and still come out with their trademark optimism, it carries so much more weight.

Album available in the player above or here.