Review Summary: Ex Wives is gripping Kinsella-influenced emo injected with healthy doses of post-rock and screamo... all created by just two guys.
Light Black’s two-person studio repertoire with Paul Hundeby handling bass, drums, and vocal duties and Walter Kappler on guitar, has proven to be an effective framework for the Boulder, Co. emo rockers. Desperately screamed vocals, poetic, profound lyricism, and fluctuating rhythms synthesize as one on Ex Wives
, yielding impressive results that most four or five-piece groups fail to achieve. Even with such a dense array of instruments and sounds, the album’s guitar work still manages to shine through as its strongest feature. Through incessant, weaving guitar lines interspersed within a powerfully ambiguous post-rock atmosphere, Light Black prove that while many bands can noodle, some simply noodle harder than others. Although each aspect of Ex Wives
is executed with poise and precision, the result is an organic, naturally flowing album that plays much more like a unified experience rather than a collection of songs.
At just over 45 minutes long, Ex Wives
is not a brief affair. Instrumental tracks and segments feature cyclic, repeating melodies that extend the album’s length and relax its overall pace. Light Black invest just as much time and detail in creating a lyricless void for the listener to delve into as they do constructing dynamic vocal arrangements. The instrumental “Putnam,” and “My Big Gay Greek Wedding,” a track in which vocals intermittently surface, both make use of spacious tremolo and shift the listeners’ attention to the album’s more ambient qualities.
’ seemingly indefinite nature makes it, at times, all too easy to detach from oneself and become hopelessly lost in the vastness of sound. Take “I Smoked Two Blunts with Kurt Travis” (a true story), for example: a slow-burning interlude laced with intricate guitar lines and upper fret-board exploration set to the beat of a persistent yet soothing rhythm played on the ride. Even with the extensive amount of voiceless sections on the album, however, no instrumental venture lasts too long before the return of Hundeby’s shrill and expressive storytelling.
Unlike screamo contemporaries such as Pianos Become the Teeth and The Saddest Landscape whose music is overcome by a prevailing theme of sadness and grief, Light Black take on a more lighthearted approach. Though the band’s lyrics are serious and not always pleasant in nature, the stark contrast between the somewhat dire lyrical content and the melody of the songs beautifully relieves the tension. “Corporate” exhibits this contrast perfectly, with the album’s strongest and most gripping vocal performance. At about halfway through the track, Hundeby hopelessly poses the question, “Why was such a perfect thing made to die, God" Are you really up there, or am I all alone"”
before bittersweet guitar chords partially alleviate the emotional strain. In doing so, Light Black create a mood that straddles the line between upbeat and ominous, oscillating at times, while many bands within the genre instead gravitate toward one side of the emotional spectrum.
has a lot going on; ambient instrumental segments and endless guitar fiddling are tied together by an emotionally taut vocal performance, making for a very thick sound that may be somewhat overwhelming to the listener at first. Without a doubt the album sounds good right off the bat, but it may take repeated listens for one to truly comprehend everything that Light Black is doing. Once unmasked, however, Ex Wives
becomes a powerful, engaging listen with many discreet features to dissect from the whole. That being said, attempting to truly pick apart such a naturally beautiful album would be doing it an injustice, for sometimes, music is simply meant to be absorbed – not examined.