At this point in time, there probably aren’t too many people familiar with the Portland outfit, Light for Fire. Honestly, that’s probably the biggest tragedy we’ll come across, as their self-titled debut is chocked full of brilliant pop moments, fusing moments of great indie-pop with arrangements created by a singer-songwriter format. It’s just flat out golden.
You’re going to struggle to find as good a one-two punch as the opening tracks on Light for Fire this year. “The Huckster” appeals to those interested in the craftsmanship of a singer/songwriter, with the majority of the song revolving around strummed guitar and J. Nicholas Allard’s great vocal performance. From here the band joins Allard with the stomper, “NY (By the Hand),” which is in the running for one of the greater tracks of the year. There’s a hint of a scratch to Allard’s voice, but with the banging piano and his storytelling, there’s not much that sounds better coming through your stereo speakers.
If you’re looking for some sort of generic marker to throw at Light for Fire, you’ll easily find comparisons to Spoon. But, that being said, the band has cleaned up some of the noisy meandering that’s been associated with Spoon, instead allowing the poppier side to push on through. Take “The Letters,” and you’ll have that semi-stomp, with Allard doing his best to give that scratchy croon perfected by Britt Daniels. Even “Green Life” seems to take a bit from the comparison, using hints of piano to craft their tune, reminiscent of some of the singles off GaGaGaGaGaGa. This isn’t a bad comparison, as few people write great pop numbers in the vein of Spoon. But, I suppose someone’s bound to get caught up in the similarities.
But, the more you listen to these eleven tracks, the more you see the band has definitely attached themselves to the songwriting of Allard, and rightfully so. “Where I Was Born” is a track for storytellers, with the narrator giving a brief summation of his life. There’s restraint in the guitar playing, that is until the band jumps in, making it a passionate Americana rocker. And with “4th of July,” you get a quiet number that evokes other songwriters from the Portland area. Allard’s voice takes on a more gentle quality, and the guitar lines barely trickle into your ear.
One of the best things you can do for your day is to get your hands on this wonderful effort by Light For Fire. Yes, there’s touchstones of modern indie stars, but beneath those allusions lives great songwriting. It’s executed to perfection, providing listeners with eleven tracks, not one of which begs to be skipped. For a band seemingly coming out of nowhere, this is the perfect place to start.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/nybythehand.mp3]
Download: Light for Fire – NY (By the Hand) [MP3]