Liar’s Lantern is a unique music project founded by Robert Fitzhugh. The underlying aim was to continue to compose and craft original albums in an age when the album as a concept is somewhat fleeting. As a result, Liar’s Lantern have have released three albums to date – Aphelion in July of 2016, Walk This Road With Me in March of 2017, and most recently – Petrichor, which came out just last month. For those who aren’t familiar with Liar’s Lantern, there’s more than enough content up online to get stuck into, and the music is beautifully conceptual and incredibly creative at every step.
When listening to Aphelion, the music came through as deeply emotional, poetically reflective with certain touches of both darkness and hope, yet on the whole offering the atmospheric warmth and character of enjoyable, refreshing indie-rock, with a soulful and even jazz-infused smoothness that occasionally ventures over into the country-rock world. The album is split into three parts – Part 1, Fugue State, and Part 2. The song titles and topics touch on immortality, revival, drowning, sleeping, dreaming, waking up, wine – a whole array of ideas that relate to you at either your most vulnerable or your most aware. The songs are beautiful, to have this album on in the backdrop to your life would bring about a wonderfully easy going vibe – there are riffs and melodies to the moon and back. When you go a little deeper though, there’s plenty to consider and appreciate, and this is something that proves to be true of the entire Liar’s Lantern approach to music.
The second album, Walk This Road With Me, has a similar yet slightly more minimal set-up, though this soon evolves into a mildly electronic ambiance that creates a whole new world around you. There’s more space here, an acoustic energy unfolds, allowing you to really connect on an emotional level with the leading vocal and the once again poetic ideas presented in the lyrics. The instrumentation makes up the bulk of the experience, but when the lyrics do appear they are showcased under a bright spotlight as a result of the contrast. The lyrics appear as much more personal; there’s romance, wondering, regret, and once again – hope. The leading voice seems heavily impacted by the songs, which makes them incredibly compelling to witness.
Finding comfort in the space between
Oh your heart’s in black and white, but there’s color in your soul – Lucidity.
Knowing the creative journey that lead to this point, and being familiar with the Liar’s Lantern sound and expressive direction, the most recent album Petrichor arrives as a wildly interesting project that fuses the best of the abilities of those involved. There’s an explicit focus and intent for this one that relates to a specific and fairly harrowing historical story. This gives it a poignant and striking sense of artistry.
Petrichor portrays the burning of the Shenandoah Valley by Union troops under the command of General Sheridan in October of 1864, known by the survivors as Red October. Our story is told from the perspective of a Confederate soldier who died in the battle of Cedar Creek.
Beginning with Red October I, Petrichor has an immediate sadness about it. The opening soundscape, the realness of the recordings, the guitar picking, the chord progression, the melody, the distance portrayed by the vocals within the mix – a sense of separation and struggle unfolds. Cry no more, For we are one is a strong example of the simple yet powerful language featured throughout.
Musically speaking the album is stunning, the depth of the concept and the stories within are represented boldly by everything involved – the music and the performances consistently reflect the underlying ideas and the evolving sense of emotion within each piece. Fisher’s Hill highlights this well, there is joy in the sound, but it’s not without darkness – the lyrics keep this at the forefront, and you can feel it as it plays out.
Little North Mountain follows on quite beautifully with the quiet glory of the natural world, a sound that strikes at this point as that of being free from war, free momentarily from pain. The following piano part and vocal choruses create a mildly optimistic yet rather haunting counterpart to the sentiment, this increases as things progress – a somewhat manic, chaotic ambiance emerges – it’s a mighty instrumental journey throughout the varying emotions of the story, and at almost 8 minutes long it really leaves its mark.
Saille I offers a moment of calm and softness, though as always it’s not without a hint of nearby struggle. Aisling Alainn follows on with weight. The leading vocal part presents a sound, style, and melody that seem like an entirely new scene in the tale. It re-addresses the situation, reminds you of those involved – the multiple layers of life affected by all of this. It’s a hypnotic song that works well in its own right, though its role within the collection is undoubtedly important. This idea of the album becoming obsolete is brought to its knees by the likes of Petrichor.
Saille II offers beauty again, an acoustic moment of reflection and awareness. It’s not always the suffering that is brought to light but the brightness of that which came before. Red October II utilises the warmth and character of blues-rock and soul to exemplify the confusion of the experiences; the pain, the questioning, thoughts of a higher power. The world turns ’round is reintroduced, reiterating the feeling that things continue, despite your struggle; time and life elsewhere go on.
Cheathru Rua has a spacious and slightly military feel to it – the structure, the build up. The instrumentation is quite vintage sounding, taking you back to those moments, showcasing the truth of it in a new way. Cedar Creek furthers this feeling, leaving you lost in chaos and sadness of a turbulent time, still feeling perhaps as if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but struggling to reach it. Saille III appears as a logical and quite beautiful next step. The piano part presents a wild sense of freedom, and this works well in representing the mass of ideas that surround the concept.
Annie’s Song rightfully provides the closing moment of the album. The final thoughts before death, the world fading away towards a single memory, a single feeling, and then nothing. The lyrics are minimal, simple, to the point – the music follows suit. The strum of an acoustic guitar and the brief appearance of distant strings effectively mark the loneliness and helplessness of these final moments. It’s an incredibly sad story, one that has been brought to light in a magnificent manner by Liar’s Lantern. There are undoubtedly creatives out there putting their absolute heart and soul into expressing new concepts in new and unique ways, and Liar’s Lantern are unquestionably one of them. Well worth exploring.