Glowing like the amber of a traffic light – neither so bad as to make you stop, or green enough to make you go insane. Entirely orange.
Perhaps Elizabeth Le Fey, the girl behind the solo act that is Globelamp, should have written a book rather than make an album. Globelamp emerged after her own exit from Foxygen, which later completely split up. The Orange Glow is her second record, reportedly written “as a reflection of the last year and a half and how [she]got out of it alive.” That period included both a breakup and the death of her best friend so it’s hardly like she has nothing to draw on, but this occasionally ethereal fairytale fails to get across the devastating power of those experiences.
What it does manage is to communicate a steady sort of unease and eeriness, which is something of a self-defeating paradox. When nearly every song has a similar atmosphere devoted to colouring in this landscape of weird, folklorish magic in muted, fog enveloped colours, the overall effect of The Orange Glow is subdued. Both ‘The Negative’ and ‘Moon Proof’ make this image clear, with the latter featuring a cleverly used violin that gives an element of classical, aspirational romance to what is a simultaneously melancholic song. As Le Fey sings “I keep thinking the best view of life / Must be from the roof / Cause then I’ll see / When it comes crashing,” there’s a palpable sense of tragedy that emanates through the proverbial woods. Meanwhile, ‘The Negative’ evokes King’s Landing if it was invaded by punk-magicians. This is partly thanks to its more languorous pace in comparison to preceding tracks. Le Fey’s talent for creating a potent sense of place with her music, and infusing that place with the emotions of her record, while writing beautifully cynical lyrics – like “I’m blocking out the negative of / How much she has left to give” – should not be denied.
Yet your ability to appreciate these talents may very well be tested, with how often they’re used in service of songs that sound the same. It’s strange how much difference distortion-free vocals and some sort of drumbeat would make to The Orange Glow. In the middle of the record, a full four songs pass by with virtually no percussion, gradually testing patience as each minute ticks by. Take ‘Don’t Go Walking In The Woods Alone At Night’ – it’s rare for a song’s title to so aptly reflect the song itself. It’s too long and awkward, tripping over itself in the effort to be spooky and eerie throughout. Standing in a shadowy corner of the woods in a hoodie, appearing like a victim of the Blair Witch, the song never moves from its spot, never capitalising on the atmosphere built within. Neither particularly cathartic nor actually unnerving, it’s one example of Le Fey’s ambition far exceeding her grasp of emotionally functional songwriting and construction. By the time ‘Invisible Prisms’ rolls along, the almost total lack of percussion is overt and extraordinarily frustrating. When used properly, even a simple drumroll or cymbal crash can help break up a song’s atmosphere and provide a cathartic moment for the listener. Le Fey’s discernible lack of interest in such functional arrangements then, is truly frustrating.
Make no mistake, The Orange Glow is an occasionally potent album full of pain and paranoia, and a cynical anger, yet it’s ultimately fruitless if the majority of that musical experience fails to connect viscerally. What should take us into a scary, majestic, inescapably weird forest full of magic, brings us to a place where half the fairies are off ill and the spectacle gets rained off until further notice, just as things are getting interesting.
The Orange Glow is out now via Wichita