Back in September of 2010 So So Gay interviewed Bright Light Bright Light, AKA Rod Thomas, about the forthcoming release of his debut album Make Me Believe In Hope. Rod told us that the album would be out in early 2011. In the business of pop music most good things take time, and there’s usually some delays and set-backs encountered. The wait was well worth it, this shimmering electro-pop record is definitely one of the best releases of the year thus far.
Since Rod started turning heads two years ago he’s been endlessly compared to many other great pop acts. We’re going to avoid doing that here since he certainly deserves to be recognized for what he’s brought to the table himself. Borrowing musical pastiche from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Make Me Believe In Hope brings a contemporary sheen to the influence of the past. The LP is filled with great nuances that often break out of typically predictable pop song structure. Recorded in New York and Los Angeles, the album features production from Andy Chatterly (Kanye West, Kylie Minogue) and Jon Shave (Girls Aloud).
The standout track ‘Cry At Films’ was co-written with Del Marquis of the Scissor Sisters and also features him on guitar. This sleekly produced heartache tale imagines life as a film – when it starts to go wrong. Elsewhere the track ‘Disco Moment’ describes an instant of realization that there are cracks in a trust you thought was intact. It is perfect dance floor euphoria tinged with sadness. The current single ‘A New Word To Say’ is accompanied by a wonderfully colourful video (featured below) and is one of the lighter moments on the record.
The best song Rod has recorded yet is definitely the darker track ‘How To Make A Heart’. Rod laments ‘we could spend the whole night talking about this, we could spend the whole night placing the blame, we can say the same words over and over and never get to figure it out – how do you make a heart’? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? The bridge features some epic synths and a key-change that takes the song to another level, as if it’s a song within a song, then flawlessly transitions into the final chorus.
Lyrically, matters of the heart are what we mostly find here. Back in 2010 Rod told us the album was ‘about connections – like how you connect with a person and a place, and how it changes your outlook’. Throughout the album Rod avoids typically cliched break-up scenarios and flighty doe-eyed infatuation. The running theme throughout the album is indeed, hope. The hope that the connection that you’re looking for is out there somewhere. The optimism of this record is perfectly balanced with darker underlying threads. It’s never cheesy nor is it depressing, it’s a more realistic look at the complexities of relationships, and not just with others but also with yourself.
One minor qualm is we wish there was a bit more variety regarding the vocals. He has a lovely voice that serves the songs well enough, but throughout the album he sticks very close to a limited range and doesn’t take many risks vocally. There are a couple moments on the album that could have done with a proper belter of a vocal, and instead are met with the same vocal delivery heard previously in the first couple of chorus’ or verses.
The album closer ‘Grace’ gives a spin to the traditional break-up song. This track is told from the point of view of the person ending a relationship, not the person who’s being let go of. Some of the most interesting production of the record is featured here with stuttering synth lines beneath what is essentially a traditional torch-ballad. This track finally manages to really showcase Rod’s vocal’s as he croons ‘Keep hope when you don’t see it’. It’s a beautifully sad ending to a beautifully sad album.
Overall this LP is a must have for any pop music lover. The songwriting and production is top notch from start to finish. Make Me Believe In Hope is a perfect example of how emotional, thoughtful, and smart pop music can be.
Rod is playing a special album launch show 13 June at Camp Basement and tickets are available here.
Go Get It: ‘How To Make A Heart’ / ‘Disco Moment’
Forget It: ‘Immature’