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Album review: Wild Light's 'Adult Nights'

March 2, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Wild_light245_2 The debut from New Hampshire-based Wild Light opens with an irresistible slice of roots rock venom. "California on My Mind" filters San Francisco through a broken heart, and the sound -- for 2 1/2 minutes -- is quite glorious. Crisp guitars spring from a stroll into a dash, scratched vocals lend an air of frustration, and a drifting harmonica provides reflection amid the obscenities.

It's a tough opener to top. But if the next 12 songs don't always provide such an immediate hook, the best make up for it with pop nuance.

Sharing a label with Peter Bjorn and John, and boasting a member who was in an early incarnation of the Arcade Fire (Timothy Kyle), Wild Light is more grounded than the background implies. If it weren't for a shiny keyboard in a number of songs, Wild Light would recall the Jayhawks at their least alt-country and most pop.

Working with producer Rob Schnapf, the band melds sunny folk-pop with a melancholic harmonic swirl and some brisk electronic atmospheres. "Call Home" builds an orchestra out of wistful keyboard tones and some well-placed rhythmic snaps, while "Heart Attack" sends its guitars into the stratosphere with a splash of otherworldly effects.

At times old-fashioned, Wild Light doesn't feel stuck in the past. There's plenty of mid-tempo despair here -- perhaps too much -- but on songs such as "Future Towns," the band is finding nostalgia in better days that might never come.

-- Todd Martens

Wild Light
"Adult Nights"
(StarTime International/Columbia)
Three stars