With their much-anticipated new album Spook The Herd due for release 21st February via Bella Union, Lanterns On The Lake have shared a hard-hitting political video to current single “Baddies”, currently on heavy rotation at BBC 6Music. Of the video Lanterns On The Lake say: “’Baddies’ is a song about division, about the rising tides of anger and factionalism that have come to characterise our politics, culture and society in general, here in the UK and around the world over recent years. All sides seeing the others as the bad guys. We’re aware that we’re part of that; we’ve also picked a side.With the video we wanted to show how polarised and hysterical debate has become, but we also wanted to convey some of the confusion and noise that surrounds us. It’s a constant, relentless maelstrom of commentators and politicians giving us ever more reasons to loathe and fear each other. When every motive is open to question, every fact is an opinion, truth is what gets the most views, noble causes are virtue signalling, millionaire Etonians are men of the people and environmentalists are terrorists, who are the baddies really?”
It’s strange – not to mention fundamentally disconcerting – to live through turbulent times. Yet as many feel like the world is slipping out of control, artists are enlivened as they seek to make sense of the shifting sands. Hazel Wilde of Lanterns on the Lake is now a songwriter necessarily emboldened. On Spook the Herd, the band’s fourth record, her voice and preoccupations rise to the fore like never before. In tandem, the band break new ground on a set of songs that are direct and crucial.
Wilde does nothing less than dive headlong into the existential crises of our times. Beginning with the record’s title – a pointed comment at the dangerously manipulative tactics of ideologues – its nine songs turn the microscope to issues including our hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief and the climate crisis.
Musically, this is a leaner Lanterns on the Lake – at times unusually stark. Their sound has been beautifully winnowed into something more pared back, urgent and direct – in keeping with Wilde’s messages – on an album loaded with songs marked by an arresting intimacy. “Swimming Lessons”, is writhing and supple as Gregory’s arpeggiated guitar dovetails with Ol Ketteringham’s pulsating drumming and Wilde’s keening vocal. “Every Atom” rides on insistent beats which lay a bed for a warped and playfully robotic guitar line, while “Secrets and Medicine” weaves and lopes achingly, weaving its atmosphere from Spartan means: piano, celestial guitars and diminished brass.
Yet Wilde’s romantic streak is still the record’s beating heart. Mining emotion in our fractured times unearths an inescapable truth: despite our seemingly myriad differences, all we have is each other. It’s a hopeful beam of light shone into the darkness, and balances the cynicism and dread elsewhere. As stately drums thud and guitar feedback wails and roils and rises around her on closing track “A Fitting End”, Wilde sings – almost presciently – “What a die-for moment this turned out to be.” Spook the Herd contains many such moments to discover and savour.