Remember how my favorite album of last year was Voyage by The Sound of Arrows? Halfway through 2012, we now have the strongest contender yet for that title: Make Me Believe In Hope, the debut album from Bright Light Bright Light.
Nearly a year after releasing the best Robyn song Robyn never made (Disco Moment), the album that follows is full of songs that fully engage the ears, the mind and, above all, the heart. It plays simultaneously as tribute and heir to the dance-pop of the early 1990s. Many songs, especially Feel It, Waiting For the Feeling, and Cry At Films, would feel right at home in a mix with early Cathy Dennis and CeCe Peniston.
The album traces a series of emotional highs and lows, embracing the euphoria of new love (Feel It), rebirth (Love Part Two), mourning (Cry At Films), despair (Moves), resignation (Disco Moment), and acceptance (Grace). Hope is a recurring theme, so the album's pleading title is a perfect fit.
Though there is but one "slow dance" ballad (Debris), the writing is so solid that each and every song would work perfectly well as a spare piano piece. (For proof, check out the Blueprints EP, which contains stripped-down versions of four songs from the album.) Each time I listen to the album—and I've listened to it start-to-finish over a dozen times—the stretch of sad songs beginning with Cry At Films and finishing up with Disco Moment brings me to the point of tears. The album is just that good. On top of that, Rod's voice is evocative and perfectly matched to the instruments, with no Auto-Tune to be found. (Thank the heavens!)
Rod Thomas and his collaborators are to be commended for releasing such a strong, cohesive, confident collection of music. They put a whole lot of love into this album, and it shows. I hope the album gains traction in North America, because I would like nothing more than to hear these songs performed live.