If you take Pink Floyd, stick them down south and add just the right amount of grit and dirt, you’ll have the killer Austin band the Bright Light Social Hour. A Southern psych rock aesthetic runs through the veins of their new record Space is Still the Place. It’s trippy, but not meandering, and thumps with dance-ready beats and carefree melodies that ebb and flow like a Technicolor tide.
Just when you expect them to rock out, they turn up the electronic vibes full force and leave you swaying with abandon. They transition so seamlessly between an earthy, hippy-dippy sound and an up-tempo dance party sound that it’s easy to just give in and lose yourself. Their guitar jams can be soothing and or they can be manic, but both are epic, especially when they both find their way onto one track. “Sweet Madelene” explores both ends of the spectrum, building gradually with spurts of controlled chaos before dramatically slowing down and then rebuilding into a whopping grand finale. The guitars seem to just take on a life of their own, wrapping around you completely and carrying you on a colorful, kaleidoscopic breeze.
Other songs take a cue from the slow burning, bluesy harmonies that bands like the Black Keys have mastered. Fuzzy guitars and fuzzier harmonies make up “Slipstream”, a mountainous mash-up of Black Keys and Pink Floyd that bleeds into the monotonous backbeat of “Dreamlove”. An oozing electronic track, “Dreamlove” pulses black light liquid from start to finish, moving at the speed of light. It’s ethereal and dreamy and would make a great soundtrack to a midnight desert rave, heavy on the glow sticks.
Bright Light Social Hour never veers into cheap, over-produced territory, even when their sound gets really dance-y. The songs blend smoothly together, no matter how vastly different they sound. And in fact, the best way to listen to Place is in one fell swoop. Letting it play through from start to finish allows you to move up and down with them, from head-banging rock and roll to uninhibited magical electro-rock. Gigantic stadium rock like “Ghost Dance” will have you singing along to their “na-na-na-na-na-na”s, but then staring up at a star-filled sky with the moony “Sea of the Edge”.
The standouts on Place come in the form of the oddball mixtures of swooping electro-pop and Southern comfort arena rock. Bright Light Social Hour have a huge sound that seeps in and fills up every single corner with vibrant color and a kind of inexplicable magic. Place is a major album for them, and you can hear them putting their all into each note and detail. Their soaring songs are not for the faint of heart. They’ll leave you breathless and overcome with euphoria, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stop grooving to them, regardless of where you think your taste lies. If you’re not into the electronic sound, you’ll be swept up by their endless guitar jams. Lucky for those of us who appreciate both, Bright Light Social Hour have found a way to fuse the two damn near perfectly.