“Northern Lights” – Allo Darlin’
Brisk and jangly, “Northern Lights” appears indeed to move too quickly for its own lyrics, as sweet-voiced Elizabeth Morris has repeatedly to squeeze extra syllables into tight aural spaces. The effect is somehow fetching. Listen, for example, to how she sings “suddenly came apart” (0:43), or how she handles the opening part of the lyric “And it makes me feel so alive” (1:09). The melodies, meanwhile, with their mid-stride minor-key modulations, have an undertow of wistfulness about them.
The song’s musical and lyrical fulcrum, to my ears, is the chorus lyric “This is the year we’ll make it right,” first heard at 1:12. The chorus presents us with a speedy gallop through a repeatedly descending, vaguely Christmasy melody line, its first two lines covering the same basic interval in such a way that the second line is subtly accentuated. The second time we get to the first two lines, in the second half of the chorus (is anyone still with me??), this moment feels extra-accentuated. And this is where we are when we get to “This is the year we’ll make it right.” And wouldn’t you know that everything else, moving forward, about the song—the “wait for me!” pace, the sweet-voiced singer expressing hopes and dreams, the lower-register guitar melody (consciously or not echoing the Blondie classic “Dreaming” starting at 1:23)—pretty much says hmm this also may not be the year you’re going to make it right. But, you can keep dreaming. (As luck would have it, Blondie will yet have the last word this week; see below.)
Allo Darlin’ is a London-based four-person band split between Brits and Aussies. “Northern Lights” is the third single from the band’s second album, Europe, which was released back in May on Slumberland Records, but the first I’ve found as a free and legal MP3. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead. You can download the song via the title above, or at the record company’s SoundCloud page. The band was featured previously here in October 2010. The three gentlemen in the band are still wearing the same shirts.