Lightfoils: Hierarchy
Saint Marie Records

Though Saint Marie Records boasts a number of shoegaze outfits on its roster, Lightfoils isn't one of them. Oh, sure, the Chicago quintet—vocalist Jane Zabeth, guitarists Neil Yodnane and Zeeshan Abbasi, bassist Cory Osborne, and drummer John Rungger—stokes a high-decibel blaze emblematic of shoegaze, but on its debut album Lightfoils often pushes the genre into considerably noisier territory, one more akin to My Bloody Valentine than Cocteau Twins. Put simply, with Lightfoils' sound bleeding into multiple genres, it does it a disservice to affix a single label to it. As the band's line-up indicates, the ten-cut set, produced by Sanford Parker and checking in at a concise forty-one minutes, is heavy on guitars and light on keyboards, though synthesizers do sneak in on occasion to smoothen the edges of the group's raw delivery.

That Lightfoils is content to take its place amongst its shoegaze brethren appears evident during the opening “Polar Waves” when ethereal vocals drift in concert with the song's downtempo rhythms, but as the album advances the group's heavier side comes to the fore. The subsequent song, “Last One,” retains the ethereal aura of the opener but bolsters it with a punchier attack, the seething six-strings this time egged on by the harder-hitting rhythm section, while the ferocious “Addict” inflames shoegaze dreaminess with a punk-styled ferocity. Structurally, “Mock Sun” spotlights two sides of the band in alternating between chiming shoegaze passages and grungier episodes. Certainly one of the album's standouts is “Diastolic,” which backs Zabeth's feather-light vocalizing with a punk-funk pattern in a way that suggests some celestial merger of Lush, Gang of Four, and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.

Interestingly, Lightfoils indulges its ethereal tendencies to the fullest degree on the set's two untitled pieces: the first is particularly cathedralesque in its wordless vocalizing, organ chords, and guitar-fueled haze, whilst the second plays like a folk traditional clothed in psychedelic garb. All genre considerations aside, labels come to seem like so much wasted energy when a song such as “Passage” suggests it would be wiser to set analysis aside and simply bask in Hierarchy's glorious sound.

August-September 2014