Be aware, to begin with, that this is a man singing. I will quickly admit that I do not usually warm to a male voice that sounds this much like a female voice, but this has only to do with the fact that in my experience, singers with unusual voices tend to over-rely on the basic aural gimmick and therefore under-deliver on the song. Hell, I could listen to a male voice that sounds like a female hyena if the song is good enough.
In “White Shade,” lead man Truls Heggero, of the Oslo-based quartet Lukestar, has a worthy piece of material to work with, featuring first and foremost that European pop band tendency to sneak up a bit on the hook, and to manage in general to make a three-minute song seem expansive and interesting. The song has three distinctive sections: the upbeat verse, with Heggero’s voice in such a high range that he can make that five-interval downward leap and still sound like a soprano on the lower note; the meandering bridge, which arrives unexpectedly after a forceful instrumental interlude, and has the air of some hidden section of a lost prog-rock classic (but much shorter!), complete with organ flourishes; and then, wow, a swift and appealing chorus, with an assured, wide-ranging melody that brings Heggero so much further down in his range that a-ha, it’s clearly a man singing after all. The song goes through the three sections again but with an alteration at the end of the verse, just to see if you’re paying attention (around 1:42); when the chorus comes back it seems both more appealing and shorter than ever–wait! sing that again! you want to say. Good news–he does, and then, without fuss, the song is over.
“White Shade” is a song from Lake Toba, Lukestar’s second CD, which came out in Norway early this year, and was released in the U.S. last month on Flameshovel Records. Lake Toba, I feel compelled to inform you, is the largest volcanic lake in the world (it’s on the Indonesian island of Sumatra); an enormous eruption there 75,000 years ago changed the Earth’s climate and apparently wiped out a lot of the human population on earth at the time. Just to keep things in perspective.