It’s nearly impossible to avoid drawing comparisons to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear after hearing Light Pollution’s full-length debut -- hell, even the press release does -- but the melodic foundation within evokes the distant, dreamy siren calls of shoegaze innovators like Slowdive even more so than the aforementioned, modern-day indie darlings.
Still, credit must be given to LP mastermind Jim Cicero, who at age 23 proves he’s wiser than his years by crafting a set of compelling tunes that sound surprisingly distinct despite the past and present musical inspirations that could’ve just as easily overwhelmed it. Though the story goes that Apparitions was born out of “a long, stoned, agoraphobic winter spent isolated in a heatless warehouse west of Chicago,” almost all nine songs here defy the record’s chilly origins.
Title notwithstanding, opener “Good Feelings” breaks like dawn with arpeggiated synths and a Peter Hook-like bass line before briefly erupting into a noisy breakdown then eventually settling into a tranquil, sunny denouement. One could easily assume that this five-minute exercise symbolizes the name Light Pollution itself, but it’s also an intriguing precursor to what Cicero and his three bandmates -- Matt Evert, Nick Sherman and Jed Robertson -- have in store.
For a guy who just picked up guitar six years ago, Cicero proves he has quite the songwriting prowess, whether disarming you with baroque pop on “Oh, Ivory!,” waxing new romantic on “Fever Dreams” or inducing hallelujahs with the crescendo on “Witchcraft.” Still, Light Pollution does languish in the ether at times -- though rare -- as “Deyci, Right On” drags and goes nowhere rather slowly under a swell of organs and Cicero’s futile wails and moans.
It’s arguably the one true moment on Apparitions where imitation outweighs innovation (and ultimately backfires) but this fleeting moment shouldn’t tarnish what is ultimately a quality first effort. Closing with “SsslowDreamsss,” a song that feels like it’s spelled, Cicero offers his most direct homage to his shoegazer forebears with a seven-minute send-off drenched in reverb that’ll leave us with the specter of summertime long after it rolls.
What kind of music do you make in an unheated warehouse outside of Chicago in the middle of the winter? Well, if you're Light Pollution, the Windy City band whose debut album, Apparitions, was created under the aforementioned conditions, you turn out the kind of dizzyingly atmospheric mix of pop, newgaze, and electro-psychedelia that gets critics and PR flacks alike running for the Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective comparisons. Led by young singer and songwriter James Michael Cicero, Light Pollution found a way to stay warm with the summery sounds of Apparitions.