With their new album Spook The Herd due for release next week via Bella Union, Lanterns On The Lake have shared a live performance video of ‘When It All Comes True’, the beguiling opening track from the LP. Of the track vocalist Hazel Wilde says: “Sometimes when you write a song you are creating a world in the same way a film maker or an artist painting a scene would. This is a twisted coming-of-age love story where we’re let in on the thoughts of what seems like a deranged narrator with a premonition. They’ve been trying to warn everyone around them of what is to come but nobody takes them seriously. At the time I was writing this one there was a lot of awful stuff on the news about shootings in America and elsewhere and some of that seeped into the story. At the end our narrator promises: ‘through the empty streets in the searing heat I’ll keep my word for you, when the sirens cease and my pulse is weak I’ll keep my word for you’”.
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.