The Light

PREMIERE

David Vassalotti - The Light

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By Jordan Feinstein

David Vassalotti’s “The Light” is a song about the very specific moment when someone has messed up and is terrified that it will end their relationship. But instead of anger at his partner, David experiences relief that everything is out in the open now, and he can now exist with and see them honestly.

“The Light” is filled with beautiful lyrics and sounds, both taking a quasi-psychedelic approach to its themes. “There’s no beast left to fear behind the door… it’s good to see you here // it’s good to be with you here // why did it take so long to turn a light on?” Describing this unknown as a feared beast behind a door is a beautiful and fantastical metaphor. They entered the room, turned the light on, and instead of a monster, they’ve only found themselves together in a new, well-lit room. This warmth and comfort is paralleled in the aural landscape of the song: a warm bath of guitar, drums, and gentle singing. A repeated “boom” sounds throughout the track, perhaps meant to be the revelation in the relationship. But it’s non-threatening, mixed softly under the calming guitars and drums–an explosion that wasn’t. The song ends with a psychedelic journey of sounds as they “go out the back door,” awash with potential and optimism for what comes next

“The Light” is a beautiful take on a moment that could have been terrifying, but instead turned mesmerizing and exciting. It’s a complex and mature conclusion from a songwriter comfortable exploring themselves honestly, and more than capable of translating it into a gorgeous song. It’s no easy feat, and makes me nothing but excited to hear what David Vassalotti does next.

“The Light” is from David Vassalotti’s new album Guitar Dream out on 1/25/19 and up for pre-order here.

REVIEW: Soft Fangs - The Light

Laura Kerry

I have a habit that I picked up in my temperamental early high school days that I haven’t been able to shake: instead of listening to bright music to lift me up when I’m feeling down, I match my soundtrack to my mood. Artists like Elliott Smith are reserved for special occasions—when the February rain still falls in mid-April, for example.

John Lutkevich, AKA Soft Fangs, makes music for such times. Like the music of Smith and Sparklehorse, his full-length debut, The Light, presents quiet tunes that pull the listener in close to their beautiful sadness. He recorded the album in his childhood home in Massachusetts, a location that creeps into songs about regret, haunting, and the desire to stay in bed and not get a job. A return home can be both a comforting and sinister experience, centering you while reminding you how far you’ve traveled from the ease of youth and the impossibility of returning to it.

On The Light, Lutkevich acknowledges the latter in songs laced with reflections about death. In the opener, “Dragon Soap,” with its soft, muffled verse and loud, fuzzy chorus, he sings, “You are finding out / What it’s all about / To live, to lose, to die / In the same skin you were born in.” On “Birthday,” with its beat loop and dizzy guitar effect, he repeats, “I’m old enough to die / I’m young enough to be alive,” and in a more assured voice on “The Wilderness,” he warns, “But life won’t seem so long / When you’re dead and gone.” Death hovers threateningly throughout the album; like the jewelry-box twinkle at the beginning of “Too Many Stars (not enough sky),” which gets dissonant and creepy, it transforms the stuff of youth into something ominous.

But Soft Fangs also has a strain of optimism. Rather than give into the threat of death, the album ultimately urges its opposite. In an answer to the first song, which poses, “You could end it all or try to move forward,” the last song embraces the second option. This track and the album are called “The Light,” after all, and they point out that it is possible to find some at the end of the deep, dark tunnel. “And death may seem ideal,” he sings, “Cause you won't feel nothing / Like you do right now / But when the light comes / Turn around and stare.”

Amid big, distorted choruses that swallow Lutkevich’s close, almost whispered voice and sedate, guitar-strummed verses that leave it bare and vulnerable, it’s possible to detect some lightness in his production and compositions, too. Though often quiet, the songs are dense with voices—instrumental and human—that sometimes emerge clear, bright, and upbeat. In the melodic vocal leap on “Birthday,” in the muted bell sounds on “Get a Job,” and in the synth voice that stands out against the noise of the final chorus on “The Light,” Soft Fangs adds a touch of levity to his lo-fi dirges.

Sometimes it’s necessary to return to a specific place for comfort—going back to a childhood home or losing yourself in sad music. As the weather warms up (fingers crossed) and the days get longer, let’s hope there’s less cause to do so. Even so, it’s a comfort to know that The Light is here waiting.

REVIEW: Soft Fangs - The Light

Raquel Dalarossa

When it comes to John Lutkevich’s intimate, guitar-driven music, the meaning of “bedroom pop”—a label that’s been commonly assigned to him—becomes quite literal. For his debut full-length release as Soft Fangs, out now via Exploding in Sound and Disposable America Records, the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter recorded most of the material in the attic of his childhood home, giving the record an inimitably woolly texture and cloistered feel. But the eleven tracks on The Light stretch way beyond the confines of the DIY label.

Certainly, though, Soft Fangs is a DIY solo project to its core. Lutkevich writes and records all of the music himself, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with his previous work as frontman of the four-piece band The Devil and a Penny, which remained active from 2007 until 2013. Lutkevich took on much of the writing, recording, and production work for the band’s four albums, and when they called it quits he simply continued making music by himself. By the end of 2014, he would release a five-track EP on his own, titled soft fangs.

The Light formally establishes Lutkevich’s solo career under the Soft Fangs pseudonym. The LP opens with soft guitar strums and Lutkevich’s whimpery vocals, but “Dragon Soap” quickly develops into a well-rounded, even lush sounding track. Many of the songs here have a velvety quality to them, as well as a damp percussive sound that implies a marshy, cavernous atmosphere. Often, though, this is balanced by floaty electronic effects. In the closing title track, for example, Lutkevich employs some rather lurid, radiating keyboard sounds that effectively call to mind a glowing, faraway light.

Though bedroom pop is at least a partly accurate descriptor, Soft Fangs seems heavily informed by emo, given lyrics that wear Lutkevich’s heart on their sleeves (touching on topics like growing older, not being able to find a job, and death) and a fuller, heavier sound all around. On “Golden,” the electric guitars become so dense that they nearly form a shoegaze-esque wall of sound. There are times, though, when electronic pop comes heavily into play as well—take, for example, the fourth track, “Birthday,” which erupts halfway through into a woozy, keyboard-driven head bobber. And the minute-and-a-half long “Get a Job” offers a quick respite into a more immediately catchy and briskly-paced melody, revealing another side to Lutkevich’s songwriting.

Perhaps the most “bedroom pop” element of Soft Fangs’ output is its general tenor; The Light feels very much like a cozy, private affair that we're lucky to listen in on. It’s an extremely introspective album, while also being incredibly relatable, and ends up doing a good job of drawing you in and making you feel close to it within no time at all. Appropriately, given Lutkevich’s chosen moniker, The Light will sink its teeth, ever so tenderly, into your skin if you give it a chance.