Porcelain People – Streetlights
Usually, when musical acts show off as many gears as the electro pop duo Porcelain People possess, there’s a dizzying effect on the listener. It’s difficult to attempt juggle multiple musical modes while maintaining an even-handed balance between their different requirements. It’s equally problematic to find the right context where these varying strains complement each other to maximum effect. Porcelain People, like all great acts and bands, makes the struggle sound easy. The thirteen songs on their debut full length album play like messages spontaneously flowing from the fabric of their lives. They never sound arbitrarily plotted out and, instead, have clear architecture where the disparate pieces flawlessly fit to create a much greater whole. Naturally, the truth is that this duo from Monroe, Louisiana like toiled and reworked these compositions until they found the right formula for each one. No matter. Much of the thrill about this album comes from the inspiration fueling the songs – they literally sound like they were written that morning and recorded late in the afternoon.
The bracing airiness of the title song is an excellent way to begin the album. Porcelain People scoops their listeners up with a smooth, steady hand that brings them into the upper stratosphere of what melody is capable of doing. This is a song promised to sunny up your mood while still engaging the imagination. Vocalist Josh Thornhill has a beautifully instinctive feel for maximizing the potential of a song’s melody, particularly related to singing. He also shows a sure ear for finding the perfect places in a song for his warm voice to land and prosper. “Vital” is the opener’s twin, in some respects, thanks to its same aim of creating a vast sonic landscape for Thornhill’s voice to inhabit. It has much more of a wide-eyed, breathless grandeur than many of the album’s later songs but the stylistic elements creating that impression are never employed cheap or tastelessly. “Play in My Paradise” dabbles with ska/reggae influenced musical strains but resolutely remains, in the end, a relatively straight-forward pop song. It does, however, draw out one of Thornhill’s best singing performances.
“Help Me Know” is another of the album’s more classy musical moments. It’s also a marvelously realized tune where vocal mood, lyrical content, and musical backing all share the same page in regards to mood and theme. Another delicate, yet confident, Thornhill vocal will leave an impact on a lot of listeners. “Goodnight is Not Goodbye”, the album’s pre-curtain, is a final song with the same sweeping cinematic range of earlier songs like “Vital” and the title song. Thornhill’s bracing singing really captures the spirit and depth of sensitivity defining the songwriting. In comparison to what’s come before, the true closer “Lullaby” brings things to a settled ending. It’s perhaps Thornhill’s most delicately minded turn on the album yet and touches hearts without ever tricking the listeners with hollow sweetness and light. Albums like Streetlights come along rarely and, especially, from such young artists. The results, however, are unquestionably top shelf.
9 out of 10 stars