It’s Lavender Diamond! No, it’s Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter! Oh, wait a minute, it’s the Gossip!
Trying to get your bearings while listening to Rites, the Drag City debut of the Brooklyn-based band Lights, can be something of a disorienting experience. One minute, you’re immersed in sweet, gentle folk-pop with cooing croonery and warm, liquid waves of guitar. The next, you’re plunged into a full-on psychedelic experience, with Jerry Garcia-like riffs and Grace Slick-via-Bananarama vocals. Then suddenly you’re turned on your ear yet again, for a dose of dance-floor-ready indie disco-funk. Yet somehow, all these disparate sounds are emanating from just one band.
So just who are these sonic shape-shifters? Well, get ready for further confusion — it’s a foursome, yet only three of them play music. That is to say, the fourth Lights member, a luminous lady dubbed Wizard of Smoke, handles the band’s you-got-your-Fillmore-in-my-Williamsburg light show. That leaves guitarist Sophia Knapp and drummer Linnea Vedder to lay down those girl-group-gone-bohemian vocal harmonies — though they sometimes opt for a distinctive unison sound, hence the overzealous Bananarama reference.
Meanwhile, the band’s dude bassist keeps the groove going and only steps up to the microphone for “Save Me for a Place,” which feels more than anything like a Loaded-era Velvet Underground ballad. But while there’s no shortage of stylistic/historical touchstones for the wildly varied batch of tracks that makes up Rites, there’s some indefinable thread connecting it all, ultimately giving the band members their own sound whether they really want one or not.