The current musical landscape is vast and disparate. Never in the history of music have so many different styles coexisted. A few artist have tried to meld various genres, but the music typically ends up sounding contrived or over-reaching. Occasionally, however, someone comes along who is up to the challenge.
Enter Ryan Lott, the creative force behind Son Lux. Lott studied classical composition at Indiana University where he worked with acclaimed pianist Jeremy Denk. After graduating he settled into a day job writing music for dance companies, commercials and movies.
All the while, however, Lott was putting together his debut album, “At War With Walls and Mazes.” Released in 2008, and taking four years to record, it was an astounding collection of modern beats, classical strings and found sounds.
The follow-up, 2011’s “We Are Rising,” was recorded in just 28 days as part of a sonic challenge issued by NPR contributor Robin Hilton. Though the record can sound a bit rushed, it’s just as adventurous and grandiose as the Son Lux debut.
“Lanterns,” Son Lux’s upcoming third album, due on Oct. 29, actually finds Lott reining in his compositions. Though he hasn’t totally abandoned his “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to instrumentation, Lott’s latest batch of songs are more restrained, straight forward and poppy.
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“Lost It To Trying,” the second track on the album, is perhaps the best example of Lott’s new approach. Atop driving drum beats and a gritty bass sax, Lott sings a touching ode to moving on from the past.
Throughout the course of the song’s four and a half minutes, Lott throws in synths, more horns, an accordion sample, and female singers, building to a crescendo where vocalists belt out, “What will we do now?/We lost it to trying/lost it to trying,” over Lott’s meticulously assembled cacophony.
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“Easy,” a slinky number with an old school feel, is another highlight. The melancholy, though lovely, “Enough of Our Machines,” with its haunting piano melody and industrial percussion, is also a standout number.
Admittedly, the album is a tad spotty. A few tracks take a little too long to build, or even don’t quite get off the ground. But the good more than outweighs the bad. “Lanterns” is definitely worth a listen, not to mention a great jumping off point for listeners unfamiliar with the music of Son Lux.