Yonder Lights “Yonder Lights” (Independent, 2018)

Yonder Lights are a four-piece group based in California and their self-titled debut album is a love letter, of sorts, to the state that bore them. Drawing lyrical inspiration from their immediate environment and musically inspired by a range of artists from Dwight Yoakam to The Eagles to a more traditional Nashville-based country sound, the band take these influences and wear them on their sleeve without ever compromising both their identity as a band and their Californian heritage.

Crooning through opener ‘Burn It Up,’ vocalist Sean Schroeder leads the charge with a distinctive vocal sound which although familiar, works really well with the backing of the band over some excellent guitar work and solid drumming from DC Hays. On first impression, the California sunshine sound is as clear as day with pitch-perfect harmonies not unlike The Beach Boys and vocally, this influence is woven throughout the entirety of the record. ‘Iridium Flares,’ again, features some excellent vocal work and borrows the same four to the floor formula from the opener to kick off the record before taking things down a notch for a pedal steel ballad ‘Goodbye, Golden State’ which slows down the momentum of the opening section of the record. This, however, is a welcome break allowing the band to flex their style and adopt a more carefully crafted approach to songwriting with each member contributing some excellent musicianship to the track allowing each other room to breathe within the song to create one of the album’s early highlights.

Moving on throughout the record, the group experiment further, dipping their toes into an almost honky-tonk sound on ‘Dear Adele,’  traditional country (‘Not So Much Lately’) and folk on ‘Fortuna (Smile On Me).’ While this might seem like the tell-tale signs of a band lacking identity and instead, decide to throw something at the wall to see what sticks, it’s actually the opposite – the band know exactly who they are, exactly what their influences are and how to weave the two together to create their own sound. This also means the record never really feels stale as there’s sufficient diversity between songs to keep things interesting, while there’s enough of a collective identity to maintain the roots of their California sound so the listener knows it’s the same great band throughout all 11 tracks.

An excellent debut from a band that wear their hearts and their influences on their sleeve
7/10

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