Timeless music often chronicles these uncertain, messy moments between what was and what will be. Albums like Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” Springsteen’s “Nebraska,” and Wilco’s “Yankee Foxtrot” all traverse the gray space between broken marriages, broken dreams, broken bands and their great thereafter.
Andy Wagner’s “Dark Light” is just such an album, one rich with sounds and sentiment that signal that dusky patch of road between then and now. This is deeply atmospheric, empty-interstate stuff, replete with reflection, regret and loss that moves from midnight to dawn, sadness to elation, past to present with mid- tempo grace.
Like his broad and ambitious previous effort, “Silos & Smokestacks,” “Dark Light” is an album of highway ghosts and backstreet apparitions. Where “Silos” cruises the wide Midwestern expanses of Wagner’s youth — factories and farms, rest stops and roadside attractions — “Dark Light” drifts across his midlife, interior topography.
Despite his early protestation, by the titular track, we begin to know our way around this memory-strewn landscape.
“There’s a side of me you’ll never get to see,” Wagner whispers in “Someone, Somewhere.” “I don’t even know if it’s real.”
A brushed snare and fairway organ reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise” yields to a lilting piano as he slips into refrain. “I know there’s someone out there who might be heading somewhere they never meant to be tonight.” That someone is Wagner. And you.
Wagner’s sonic palette straddles a wide crevasse: the deep resonance of his weather-worn acoustic guitar is buffeted by electronic drums and synthesized keyboards. It’s equal parts Radiohead and Richard Thompson, all shimmering guitars, blips and beeps, and undulated keyboard washes grounded by the steady, organic sounds of metal and wood. He sings in a deep baritone so intimate, you can hear the feelings well up in his throat. You can hear his heart beat.
All songs written, performed and recorded by Andy Wagner at Lampblack Audio – Chicago, IL
Piano recorded by Dan Dietrich at Wall to Wall Studios – Chicago, IL
Cover photograph by Matthew Rivera
Mastered and lacquer cut by Carl Saff – Chicago, IL
All songs © Andy Wagner 2015