It’s surprising that a band like Lafayette’s GIVERS (their all-caps) didn’t happen sooner. In a time when major music festivals have the musical breadth of most people’s iTunes file, sooner or later somebody had to hear the variety of music at Festival International (in the band’s case) and try to incorporate as much of it as they could manage into their sound. We’re accustomed to thinking about each genre of music—particularly culture-based music—as a set of practices and values, but those features are manifested as riffs, rhythms and sounds, each as available and legitimate a musical decision as staying inside any pop/rock musical vocabulary.
By taking world rhythms, sounds and textures out of context and incorporating them into rock ‘n’ roll, GIVERS make them exotic and psychedelic, as the cover art for In Light suggests. Producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) picks up on that and makes the album an energetic, physical head trip. Much has been made of the band’s positive vibe—the album leads with “Up! Up! Up!” How much more up can you get?—but the palpable enthusiasm in the tracks obscures the sonic depth of In Light. It has as much atmosphere as energy, which is saying something.
In Light is more than that, though, but it’s not exactly about songs. After 10-20 listens, I’m still surprised by the reggae breakdown in “Meanwhile,” and there are enough moving parts that I continue to wonder if I remember the song correctly until late in the song when the “Don’t get stuck in the meantime” chorus kicks in, and I feel like I’ve known the song for 20 years. Similarly, “Ceiling of Plankton” always takes longer to get to my favorite parts than I expect, but each time it gets to the start of the chorus, I’m charmed and forget my impatience.
It’s tempting to say that vocalists Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco are the heart of the band. She has a warm, appealing huskiness to her voice, and Guarisco’s unguarded quality is disarming. But the band’s at the heart of the band, whether chugging through an uptempo rhythmic passage, creating a dissonant noise or reveling in the fun of bouncy pop. Those simple, collective pleasures cut through sonic shimmer and eclectic tastes, and they’re what have so far made believers of people who’ve seen them live.