light upon the lake

R: I’ll begin by apologizing to a certain extent — this review will be more about me, to a certain extent, than about the music itself.


R: Sorry but this is going to be a Roger-centric post. Nigga all up in his feelings over a mediocre indie folk album, to a certain extent. But whatever, let’s get into it. Extent.

by Whitney

R: My freshman year of high school I was much less mature than I am now, at least I like to believe so. I used the term “gay” as a synonym for bad, “retarded” a substitute for vacuous.

I played football, fought over a girl (still like that girl, funnily enough) and wanted the Lifted Research Group’s version of the T-Mobile Sidekick because that shit was fucking baller and I’d still take one if somebody was down to part with theirs; if that person is you, my email is at the bottom of the post. I didn’t listen to anything that wasn’t a DatPiff exclusive and Lil Wayne singles, whether official versions or leaked — I heard “A Milli” back when the line was:

cause my seconds, minutes, hours go to the almighty dollar / and the almighty power of the almighty Allah

as opposed to

/ … the almighty power of that cha cha cha cha chopper

E: Huh.

R: Yeah. Strange. Anyway, when I wasn’t listening to Lil Wayne I was blasting Kanye back when he was transitioning from having a backpack to them Venetian blinds sunglasses that everybody wore for like a year. Those days my bubblegum blue earbuds would blast Jeezy, Cassidy, Plies, Fabolous, Juelz Santana, and Lloyd Banks. The days when Game was “THE Game” with a butterfly on his cheek; when the name Ryan Leslie would at least make you say “I think I’ve heard of him”; when Missy Elliott disappeared but was just secretly getting Grammy nods for work with Keyshia Cole, Jazmine Sullivan, and Jennifer Hudson; when Papoose was still hot from “Alphabetical Slaughter”; when the beat for Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” was banged on hallway lockers during each and every class break; when people were still sure that a Black man could never be president, the housing market looked as stable as ever, and the iPhone hadn’t fucked up the phone game forever.

E: Dude we had lockers in our school’s gym that were perfect for that Lil Mama beat. Like, I swear they sampled those same lockers for the song. Whatchu know bout me.

(ryan leslie’s current soundcloud header. damn. someone give this nigga some love)

R: Turn the hallway into a dance club bruh. So this was what I knew and cared about in 2007 and 2008: moving up to varsity, copping a feel on a plump booty, impressing my older brother. The world was small, my mindset was restricted. My family life was shit. I was sure I was going into the Marine Corps — the toughest branch — because fuck it, I was around military life since forever and I wasn’t particularly good at anything. I was athletic but not scholarship worthy. I was smart but never applied myself, all the adults told me that I “had potential” (a turn of phrase that still pisses me off if said to me in earnest). I left my father’s house after a dispute — not the first or last time — and lived with my mother in Texas for a spell. But before leaving my father, I auditioned for an Arts school not as much on a whim as much as it was because of my favorite teacher Mrs. R encouraging my best friend at the time and myself to do so. In 2009, a year spent adjusting to life with my mother, I got a call from that Arts school in the middle of English class. I answered — a move which baffled the English teacher thoroughly. I had been accepted. I got up from my desk and walked out, skipped the rest of my classes that day. The next week I was back in my father’s house, awkward and tense as ever.

That Arts school changed me from the inside out.

It took a while, but I warmed up to the people in my department — theatre. Quickly, the terms “gay” and “retarded” were dropped from my lexicon forever. I quit football. My grades improved. I started dating people that I would’ve made fun of two years prior, started listening to others, hurt them and was hurt by them, made terrible decisions then learned from them, became an awful person, then became a better one. The party where I had my first drink (a White Russian, btw) Frank Turner played and then Gogol Bordello and then Fleet Foxes and there was a Black kid singing opera and my main homegirl had just cut her hair to the nappy roots talking about the cutie with the fat ol’ booty and asked if i had read for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf yet.

Like I said this album review is more about me than it is about the music.

I started asking friends to burn me albums like We’re Dying But We Ain’t Dead, Love Ire & Song, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, The Warrior’s Code, For Emma, Forever Ago, etc. (this is back when burning CD’s was a viable way of sharing music). And my music collection grew. I bought Helplessness Blues on vinyl as a young lady’s birthday / break up gift.

E: You did not. You fucking did not buy Helplessness Blues on vinyl. Did Urban Outfitters give you a free cardigan when you bought it from them?

R: No. Should have tho. Lol. I didn’t think that one through, she probably hates me and that album. She deserves to hate me. But not the record. That record is great.

E: Solid album. Can’t front. Just seems out of character for you.

R: I was young. And Urban Outfitters had a killer sale that day. So that was high school. Then college. Five years of dead dreams, depression, loss, addiction, trap music, suicidal thoughts, counseling, experimental r&b, time off, essays, jobs, an obsession with jazz, ONLY ONE FUCKING FRANK OCEAN ALBUM, self-contentment, a step back into indie rock / folk, and one tassel swivel and a cap toss later, here we are.

An album by a band named Whitney called Light Upon The Lake surfaces and it feels like a soundtrack to everything I just described. An insincere apology, the pains of growing, of family issues, of loneliness, of learning new things, of relearning the shit that you really should’ve remembered already because you’ve learned these lessons before. This album is just pure nostalgia for me in every kind of way, which is funny because I hadn’t heard of these dudes before last week. I’ve bought two albums so far this year: Puberty 2 by Mitski and this one.

E: Oh we’re gonna talk about that Mitski album next week. Spoiler alert: Indie album of the century. Believe you me, it’s coming.

R: I literally can’t wait to review that album. The only two things I’m more excited for is Half-Life 3 and Boys Don’t Cry. And neither one of them bitches is coming anytime soon.

E: HEY ROGER!! Now that we’re done with your memoirs I need to tell you why this album kind of sucks.

I don’t have a beautiful coming of age tale that I can relate to this album like my fellow blogger does. My high school years were spent listening to roughly the same music, but effectively in reverse: I started with the indie bullshit and learned to appreciate stuff like Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 later on.

Maybe it’s for that reason that I don’t quite have the same warm, adolescent associations with this album that Roger does.

R: So when you listen to “And Then What” featuring Mannie Fresh do you tear up and think … “those were the golden years right there”? Please tell me that you do.

E: No but I’ll admit to having unusually nostalgic feelings for Dem Franchise Boyz. Right song, right place, right time. In 2006, America needed to both lean wit it, and also rock wit it. But look, as discussed in the iMessage, this album fails a crucial test:

E: Listening to just about any track on this album, I’m left with the feeling that what I’m listening to is background music, but I’m not sure for what. There’s a really stupid, on-the-nose lyric on this thing that talks about driving around with the windows down — jesus, really? — and this just isn’t music I would ever consider doing that too. I have better beach day music, better driving music, better everything music, really.

And if I discard that thought and try to focus and listen to the tracks on their own merit… it’s not very rewarding. The guitar riffs are too swallowed up by the chunky rhythms to really appreciate, and the lyrics are fucking forgettable. Dumb lyrics are acceptable if they’re catchy, these aren’t catchy.

“Red Moon” and “No Woman” are admittedly some standout tracks. The guitar line in “No Woman” is solid enough to shine through, and “Red Moon” lets the horns get their due. Toss these in the Spotify, but the whole album? No.

Also, Track nine (“Polly”) sounds EXACTLY like a track by Paul Tiernan off the Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist soundtrack. No joke. Go ahead and do a side-by-side. Damn near the same chord progressions on what sounds like a Fender Rhodes electric piano.

R: Eamon, I wish I could say you were wrong, but I can’t. I can tell you why I liked this album through description of track nine though. The image that comes to mind when I listen to the second to last song on this album, “Polly”, makes me think of hearing a friend say “yo wanna come hit this blunt with me?” about six or seven years ago. Her hair was freshly cut short and nappy and was glistening from being well oiled and she wore her vans and skinny jeans and a t-shirt that could’ve easily been worn through in spots — so nonchalant that you couldn’t help but think of her as the coolest person ever. We shared a blunt as our White friends drank till they were bleary-eyed and making out with each other, dancing freely as if they knew that these moments were fleeting.

“Yo real talk, if neither of us are married by 30 then bump it. Let’s get married. Tryna get them tax benefits my nigga. Then we can just be old and pull bad bitches together.”

She raised her eyebrows and looked at me the way a person looks at you when they know they just made the best suggestion you’ve heard in years — maybe ever. This was when the idea of gay marriage being legalized in all 50 states seemed a far off fantasy. We both laughed, I’m sure. Or maybe we didn’t.

So what you say next you say in the way that you say things when you know that it’s just a dream, just a fantasy, but the idea is nice. And you’re still young and you still dream. You still haven’t had a pregnancy scare. Or been addicted to anything. Or truly felt loneliness, but the fringes are there.

The Elizabeth River is sparkling from the lights of cars and streetlamps reflected from a bridge.

“Sounds dope.”

E: I think of the exact same thing whenever I hear “Every Time We Touch” by Cascada.

R: Lol. But this is my point. The album isn’t going to win any contests on pushing any boundaries or even be all that memorable in two years. I can admit that — I’d be a fucking liar if I said that the second track “Golden Days” (edit: this is actually the third track and neither blogger noticed the error for several days … just saying, tracks are already fading from memory) was going to stay in my iTunes library for more than one month. But there’s something about today that makes me want to think of my past. And this album is good for doing that.

R: But idk. I’ll leave it up for debate. But there’s one thing we can agree on.

E: Correct. Last track. Worst on the album. Two out of five. We’ll be back next week with a better album.

R: and if you got dat sidekick:


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