Independent artists Gold Light and Snakemusk join forces to deliver a stunner of a debut album together in Shadows In The Shallows, which fuses emotional Americana with elements of raw garage rock, country swing and bittersweet folk music inside of nine decadently arranged tracks. Songs like the sensational lead single “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” acoustic “Nobody’s Baby” and vocal-driven “Heart of Black” engage us with their vividly-crafted instrumental melodies, evocative lyricism and vitality-rich production value, and in a season that has (up until this point) left a lot to be desired when it comes to stripped down, cut and dry indie rock, this record stands out as a truly gripping album in every way that counts. Gold Light and Snakemusk don’t try to change the world with their string play in these songs, nor do they overshoot their ambitious goals in the heat of their experimentations, but they nevertheless manage to give us a tracklist that is hard to put down once it’s been initially picked up.
The rollicking rhythm of “The Last Picture Show” is flanked with a dirty bassline that gives its acoustic guitars a much punkier identity than they would have had otherwise, and while “Papa Knows Best” has a noisy, Tom Waits-style finish to its tonality, it balances out its rougher edges with a sumptuous vocal harmony that stayed with me long after I listened to the song for the first time. Shadows In The Shallows is all about its intoxicating fusions and mashups, but what’s most fascinating about its experimental nature has very little to do with what these two artists are combining and everything to do with how they’re going about doing it. The abrasive shift in tempos, the captivating lyrics that borrow from ironically reverent alternative rock as much as they do classical Americana, the meticulously arranged instrumentation and its occasionally rambunctious outbursts of catharsis; whether it be “Release,” “One Thing After Another,” or even the plaintive “Heart of Black,” Gold Light and Snakemusk make their most elaborate of hybrids sound seamless and simple, which is no easy feat for even the most talented of performers in this world to accomplish.
Fans of all-American indie music with a contemporary, cultured pulse can’t go wrong with Shadows In The Shallows, which for my money could possibly be the most spellbinding debut that we’ve seen in the States this year. There are a lot of bands trying to do what this collaborative pair are doing so effortlessly in this record, but few – if any at all – exhibit the passion and boundless inventiveness that this duo does from one track to the next. Shadows In The Shallows is an interesting blueprint for what I can only imagine will end up being a celebrated series of joint recording projects between these two, and with any luck, it won’t be all that long before they follow-up this urbane set with another. Collaborations tend to produce hit or miss results, but Gold Light and Snakemusk appear to have found the perfect counterpart in one another, and they demonstrate everything that their partnership is capable of producing in this virgin release.