I first "got" Son Lux's Lanterns while on a long nighttime plane ride, one of those endless flights when time seems to stop and you're as awake as you've ever been. I put this album on repeat, and over the course of a transatlantic trip, realized that new things emerged every time it cycled through.
It was an unusual experience, considering that these days I absorb music mostly through playlists and singles, because I am lazy. But this 2013 album by Son Lux—aka Ryan Lott, the NYC-based producer and composer—deserves to be listened to with a little extra attention. As much as I liked it the first few times I listened to it, it didn't quite click into place until recently. As Pitchfork's Jeremy Larson put it last year, "Can flute trills actually live with an instrument built from Pro Tools? Can an arrhythmic baritone saxophone actually coexist with an 808 bass thump?" I wasn't sure.
After spending a few hours on that darkened plane, I have a different take: What makes these songs difficult is what makes them great. You have to decipher them, peel away layers, brush off dust, hold them up to the sun. They're like classical compositions with the charisma of pop songs, equally addictive and cryptic. There's the brittle beat of Lost It To Trying, which is braced with the horns and flutes Larson mentioned:
Or the manic No Crimes, which is equally joyful and ominous:
The most interesting production on the album might be its last song, Lanterns Lit, which switches from an overwhelmingly warm, vibrant chorus to Lott's crisp, frail vocals and back with ease. It's a fantastic song, if you can bear how damn sad it is:
You won't get instant gratification from this album, but if you've got a few hours in a darkened plane to really listen to it, the wait is worth it. [Spotify]
Welcome to Soundtrack, what Gizmodo's staff are listening to every night.