The Light In You from Mercury Rev is their first album since 2008’s Snowflake Midnight and, where that album seemed to indicate a band that had run out of steam, The Light In You sees them recharged and, at times, the album matches the highs of their Deserter’s Songs and All Is Dream peak period. It’s a welcome return for their trademark cinematic sound and, once again, the world feels a little brighter for having Mercury Rev in it.
The opening two tracks set out the album’s mood from the off. The Queen Of Swans is a dreamy, melody laden song with Jonathon Donahue’s unique vocals holding it all together perfectly, building to a chorus that has that Mercury Rev sound – part Disney soundtrack instrumentation, part alt-rock symphony. Amelie then trumps The Queen Of Swans with a track that is up there with their best work. It’s begins like a beautiful nursery rhyme underpinned with orchestral swirls and swoops and then builds and builds to a quite wonderful conclusion and is one of the standouts here. The next track You’ve Gone With So Little For So Long continues in the same musical vain, albeit with perhaps a few too many instruments thrown in as it’s a bit cluttered at times. The pace then changes with Central Park East, where guitars are to the fore for the first time. It’s a lovely song with Donohue’s reverb laden vocals a perfect match for the romantic, swirling music of the track. Yes there are still strings and horns here, but they’re far more reserved and the song’s all the better for it.
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Emotional Free Fall starts off with a choral sound not unlike a Kraftwerk track might use, but that comparison goes no further than that. The track develops into a breezy number with hints of disco like strings, not unlike something you’d hear in a musical. It shouldn’t work but it does. We return to a Deserter’s Songs feel with the lovely Coming Up For Air, which is the shortest track on the album but one of the best. Donahue sings of imagining himself as a dolphin swimming freely and the track is the perfect soundtrack for that. The album takes a bit of a dip with Autumn’s In The Air which is a bit too similar to what’s gone before and Are You Ready? which tries to mix sixties pop, soul and psychedelic rock without really succeeding. Sunflower follows and also falls a bit flat. It’s a pacey, soul like number that doesn’t work with Donahue’s voice as he sings it like he’s trying to constantly catch up with the music. The summery, hazy Moth Light rescues things however and we end on the upbeat Rainy Day Record which manages to marry a faster soul/alt-rock sound to Donahue’s voice where Sunflower failed. It’s a decent ending, although I prefer the slower, ethereal side of Mercury Rev and it’s the promise of that type of music that makes me want to put the album back on again.
Overall, The Light In You marks a welcome return for Mercury Rev and it’s an album that will reveal more and more with each listen. It’s definitely an album for fans of Deserter’s Songs and All Is Dream as, if you love those albums (as everyone should), there’s plenty here for you