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December 12, 2013

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tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt mashes up genres

KYLE MALONE LIKES TO TALK ABOUT DOLPHINS. IT SEEMS DOLPHINS provided an epiphany of sorts for the young Lee University graduate with the ambitious goal of updating a New Age/’60s sensibility for the 21st century. But pinpointing just what the epiphany contained proves elusive. Something about spirituality, I would imagine. 

This just goes to show that dance-pop band tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt leader Kyle Malone is something of an enigma. The singer/songwriter/producer claims to be deeply influenced by Brian Wilson, but you’d be hard pressed to hear it in his music—unless you are counting The Beach Boys’ synthesizer-dominated album “Beach Boys Love You.”  

Of course, shaking the Wilson talisman around like a burnt-out sage smudge stick is standard fare these days for groups mining the pop side of rock and roll, but my guess is that Malone is more influenced by the attitude and sentimentality Wilson’s music exuded rather than the musical experimentation of “Pet Sounds” or “Smile.” 

In fact, Ernie Paik’s review of last year’s HEARtS album was closer to the mark when he compared the band’s sound to a video game soundtrack.  

Or, maybe De La Soul would be an even closer comparison, since tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt exhibit the same sort of musical Waring blender sensibility by grabbing styles and sounds from a variety of genres and tossing them together into a musical bouillabaisse. which results in something probably greater than the sum of its parts. Which is a good thing! 

The electro-pop songs the band generates aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, but they are never less than interesting, if only from a sonic aspect. What’s more interesting is the scope of ambition Kyle, wife Stacy (the true “heart” of this band) and the rhythm section of Seth Ferguson and Brett Ives, and by extension, the listener, exhibit.

This band makes big, huge, gruesome STATEMENTS! While the music can resemble an ocarina of time, the sentiments are not always so pretty.Just clock the photo of Kyle in his “warrior sun-god guise,” like he’s the first Aztec rock star to grace the stages of Chattanooga. And in point of fact, he is!  

So, like a Southern version of the Polyphonic Spree, tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt willfully employ lyrical platitudes which, taken minus the music, would frighten away many listeners, yet instead seem ingratiating. 

Besides, in these trying times, dear reader, what’s wrong with being positive? Oddly enough, such ambition on the band’s part seems to set them apart from most of their musical counterparts in town, and the average club-goers probably scratch their collective heads in wonder at a band that resembles some modern take on Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and plays electro-pop dance music featuring extremely prominent dolphin samples spurring on the beat.  

Malone himself acknowledges that last year’s “Ascend” was probably too ambitious and experimental in scope for the local scene, but nevertheless, all but a handful of the group’s initial pressings were sold. 

Psychedelia is a curious beast. While it can be somewhat off-putting to some, musicians typically enjoy the style because it allows for so much creativity. The danger can be that too much of a good thing is sometimes just that: too much. However, tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt seem to have a pretty good grasp of an elusive aspect of this style. 

Theirs is not the revolutionary, political psychedelia of the Jefferson Airplane but rather more akin to the studio efforts of Curt Boettcher’s Sagittarius recordings: mind-warping music for the masses, who want to shake their moneymakers! 

’Cause at the heart of it, this band is about having fun, being a conscientious citizen of planet Earth, and dancing—heavy-handed lyrics notwithstanding. And again I would suggest, what’s wrong with that? 

THE HEARtS IN LIGHt’s new album “Mystical Marriage” is set for release later this month or early January, and they will embark on a venture to Los Angeles shortly thereafter, so send them some good vibrations! They’ll appreciate the gesture, I’m sure.

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December 12, 2013

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