Givers: In Light
I love when a big deal band comes to town, sporting a local opener clearly breast-fed on their landmark albums. One example: indie-experimentalists Dirty Projectors, who turned heads at a recent Louisiana gig largely due to their openers—an energetic, instrument-swapping Lafayette-based five-piece known as Givers. With a dexterous instrumental attack, tuneful yet alien hooks, and a proficiency for squiggly, short-circuiting electric guitar fills, it’s obvious the former Paste Best of What’s Next band selected the Projectors’ Bitte Orca as a Desert Island Disc—but In Light, their official debut, fortunately transcends their transparent inspirations the old-fashioned way: by twisting the nuances of their heroes into a pretzel, paying homage by developing taking others’ good ideas and going someplace new.
So while In Light is unmistakably a 2011 indie album (In addition to the Dirty Projectors influence, there are traces of Vampire Weekend’s trendy worldly pop bounce scattered throughout), Givers constantly rise above their reference points because the songs are usually excellent. The five players alternate between fidget and flow—on one hand, they know when to let a good groove ride, content to bask in the sun-streaked guitar stabs and kick drum pulse of opener “Up Up Up,” their most easily digestible moment. But elsewhere, their attention spans are shorter, attacking the restless behemoth that is “Meantime” like surgeons huddled around an open-heart surgery, dissecting the song through a series of jarring (and wonderful) shifts in tempo and dynamics—a sprint from muscley, exotic pop to worldly funk and back again.
Speaking strictly sonics, In Light is literally the brightest album I’ve heard in ages (Insert “Gotta Wear Shades” joke here), but it’s far from slick—the heat generated comes from the sweat of its players, who sound as if they’re tracking live from a sweltering jungle on Mars. On headphones, the adventurous details really cut through—“Up Up Up” in its four-and-a-half minutes, parcels out flute, a steroid synth-bass, handclaps, and glockenspiels—but this is music equally suited for a psychedelic dance floor.
In fact, when Givers try their hand at reigned-in introspection (like on the crawling, penultimate ballad “Go Out at Night”), they lose a bit of their giddy, ass-shaking magic. Luckily, they mostly stick to their guns: dense, exploratory uplift, perfectly demonstrated on the joyous, multi-cultural bounce of “Ceiling of Plankton.” “Keepin’ it warm, not too tight, just like my favorite sweater,” they sing. Sounds like a worthy mission statement to me.