erasing clouds

Brighter, Out to Sea

reviewed by dave heaton

I wasn't paying attention when it was released in 1991, but Brighter's lone album Laurel has always seemed like a classic to me – it keeps following me around. It's a treasure I first encountered in the cut-out bins, on cassette and later on CD, one I bought and got carried away by… I saw "treasure" because its milieu is an uncommonly gorgeous one, one of deep dreams and unending landscapes. At least two of the band's three members would go on to make excellent melancholy pop music later – especially Keris Howard with Harper Lee, but also Alex Sharkey with Pinkie – but there's nothing like Brighter, and nothing like Laurel.

Laurel is a walk through a glow or a haze, one created by guitars, by introspective singing, by some piano or synth. But there's also direct emotion inside the haze; these songs can be particularly affecting, in a gentle yet genuine way. Lyrics like "maybe one day you will see all the things you'd like to see," or "as I lay awake I wonder where life's taking me / the waves they crash against my window" embody a world of wishes and hopes, and hurts and disappointment. It's music of seasons, of journeys, marked by the passing of time.

And Laurel is only the beginning of this collection Out to Sea, only the first 8 of its 20 tracks. The rest of the songs are in the same vein, and spectacular. Overall they have a slightly more extroverted and alert demeanor, one fitting their origins, their life outside the wondrous fog of Laurel -- there's 4-track recordings that ended up on flexi singles, tracks recorded with Laurel that never came out, tracks recorded later, or earlier. It's a treasure trove of music from a truly remarkable band.


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