belated tune: Laurel Halo, “Light and Space”

Alright, so Laurel Halo’s new album Quarantine has received a ton of positive press of late. My folks at BPM gave the album a favorable review, Pitchfork BNM’d it and ran an insightful (if at times excessively “out there”) feature on the gleeful, gory album art. Plenty’s already been said about how impressive the LP is, but I don’t think enough can be said for the brilliance of closing track “Light and Space.”

Most critical analyses of “Light and Space” have latched onto the compelling, deceptively sensible chorus “Words are just words / Words are just words that you soon forget.” This near-universal response speaks not just to the minimal, rich lyrical prowess of Laurel Halo, but how she builds up this chorus amongst an instrumental so bare and placating, hearing it is like being wrapped in a blanket of deep space. 

When Gorilla vs. Bear premiered “Light and Space”, they pulled this line from Halo’s interview with Fact: 

“I started out with a ton of echo and reverb on the vocals, but it sounded supremely boring to me, so I was curious how they’d sound dry in the arrangements and got rid of most of the wetness…It was tempting to use autotune but I decided against it because there’s this brutal, sensual ugliness in the vocals uncorrected, and painfully human vocals made sense for this record.” – Laurel Halo, on Quarantine

It was a pivotal decision, really. It’s easy to imagine “Light and Space” sopped in reverb, made all the easier to forget, to group into experimental electronic artists drowning themselves in such effects. I think that’s why this track is such a standout: the music is spacey, but far more sharp than hazy. And the vocals are mixed so up-front, they’re confrontational (in addition to being gorgeous). There’s refreshingly little here, but it’s still awfully overwhelming.

“Stare at my bed / Feel nothing” sings Halo deeply just before the chorus–a routine of emptiness. Somehow, “Light and Space” manages to forge the feeling of oscillating between hopeless longing and subsequent numbness. This is powerful stuff–a masterpiece–and one of the year’s strongest songs to date.