Los Colognes & Midnight North
Sunday - Oct 27, 2019 7:00PM
“Only the living feel the ﬂow/only the loving let it go”- Unspoken
One of the highest and rarest aspirations in popular music is to reach for the transcendental, to access the spirit. On the third album “The Wave” by Nashville based Los Colognes, they succeed just this- in breaking through the conﬁnes of everyday pop song lyricism to tell a sort of holistic story. It’s not a concept piece, but it’s a brooding and still joyful song cycle ﬁlled with philosophical rumination, effortless hooks, inspiring musicianship, and expansive arrangements. It’s an album perfectly suited of the current zeitgeist of unease and hope.
“The Wave” is an album about archetypes and about the everyday. There are illusions to the Great Flood, to Plato’s Cave, to Poe, to the hero’s quest so iconically deﬁned by Joseph Campbell. There are recurring metaphors about the water, about the vastness of the ocean and the delicate balance between riding the wave and being pulled under. There is a struggle, there is dread, there is hope, there is ultimately the knowledge only gained by a journey. It’s an album about attempting to gain acceptance with the ﬂow of adulthood, life in the music business, the changing awareness that only time and maturity can hand to someone.
Guitarist/singer Jay Rutherford opines in the album’s initial single, “Flying Apart" Nobody believed/We’re all just hoping/Floating down streams”. It’s a song that repeatedly invokes the wave metaphor of the album’s title while churning through its own sonic sea of shimmering keyboards and guitars anchored by drummer Aaron Mortenson. The music evokes any of the best moments of the late seventies or mid-eighties FM radio while never being weighed down by the specter of inﬂuence. Los Colognes are a young band who have managed to forge their own sound while channeling the best sonic worlds of the decades past. Unlike the live approach used to record the group’s previous records, “The Wave” was built from the ground up so to speak and with attention to each track, each part. There is a certain economy of space in the songs that feel deliberate while never ceasing to be warm and inclusive. Guitar and keyboard lines drift off each other in between lyrical exchanges while Mortenson propels the beat, sometimes meditative, sometimes driving. Each song passes into another with a thoughtful pause- a passing keyboard chord, a drone, a bit of noise, a breath before the next reﬂection. Like any fully realized album, there is a cyclical wholeness to it that beckons the listener not just to hear it in its entirety from the outset, but to hit ‘play’ again or lift the needle as soon as the last chord of “Can You Remember?” subsides. Rutherford sings on “Can You Remember?” - ‘When you were young/there was a ﬂood/ almost drowned’, but with the understanding that the journey didn’t end in tragedy, we didn’t drown, we are still navigating the waters and with a new perspective. The journey to ﬁnish the recording of “The Wave” was its own quest of sorts for Rutherford and Mortenson, a more deliberate process of creation and craft that shows a band becoming fully aware of its voice and its vision. As current events in the world breed anxiety and unease, as the accelerating paces of the hyper information age make it yet harder to deliver contemplative messages in the arts, and as we all struggle to accept the uncertainty and mystique of ‘living in the moment’, Los Colognes have given us a singular collection of quietly anthemic tunes, held together by philosophical reﬂection and damn ﬁne rock and roll chops. The Wave is coming.
Written by William Tyler - Merge Records
In June of 2017, Midnight North released their third studio album: Under the Lights. On this full-length record, Midnight North left it all on the court. Recorded by David Simon-Baker (Los Lobos, ALO, Jackie Greene, Mother Hips) at the Greene Room and Allegiant Studios, Under the Lights features their 11 best new tunes. Expect flares of country on tracks like “The Highway Song” and “Greene County”, tinges of soul on the likes of “Back To California”, but mostly good solid rock and roll. With strong melodies and stronger harmonies, for this band, it comes down to one thing: the song.
Immediately after their last studio release, 2015’s Scarlet Skies, Midnight North - fronted by lead songwriters Elliott Peck & Grahame Lesh with lush Hammond B3 organ, lead guitar, and harmony work from Alex Jordan and stomping bass lines from Connor O’Sullivan - began touring the country in earnest, visiting the East Coast and the Midwest for the first time in Summer 2015. The band wrote the majority of Under the Lights in the following months, and the lyrical road themes - the initial excitement, the longing for home, and the inherent need to keep moving - shine through.
“Under the Lights is the perfect title for this collection of songs,” said O’Sullivan. “These songs and lyrics are about being a band of musicians on the road away from home. Songs literally performed and tested under the lights at countless venues across the US.”
Last year, while work in the studio continued, the band’s stream of amazing live shows and festival appearances sped by as the band jammed with heavyweights like Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Tom Hamilton, Mihali Savoulidis, and more. Hitting the road night after night and building their fan base has proved a lot of fun and every time they come back to a city the venues and crowds get bigger while the songs get tighter. “On the road, you have an opportunity to dig into what the band is capable of and learn where your limits as a group are and aren’t,” said Jordan. “It was a wonderful opportunity to capture a sound on this album that is identifiably our own.”
In addition to all the touring, Midnight North is on year five of holding down Sunday nights at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA. To celebrate the occasion, they released a free live album, Live at Terrapin Crossroads in 2016, where Relix Magazine took a shine to “the group’s powerful three-part harmonies.” Performing weekly for a hometown crowd allows a chance to continuously test new material. “I feel like I’ll come to the band with this raw idea and watch it totally come to life,” said Peck.
2017 continued the growth for Midnight North, as the exciting release of Under the Lights helped point the way for more and more fans to discover the band. “These songs tell our story, at least up to this point,” said Lesh. “Our job is to sing you these stories as honestly as we can and transport you into our world for an hour or two.