Every now and again there comes a special kind of album that completely redefines how I look at music. I entered 2017 kinda burned out on music in general. Record after record, single after single, it was all becoming an indecipherable wash. Of course, good albums slipped through, but that all too elusive release that would reintroduce me to the reason I love music somehow managed to avoid my grasp. Until now.
Allow me to boast a little here. Us Aussies don’t see too many artists producing critically shattering albums over here, so when a band like Gang of Youths comes around, it’s hard not to smile smugly. They produced a dark, heart-wrenching debut in 2015 that unfortunately fell under my radar at the time. The Position tackled everything from illness and suicide in such a weighty manner that it makes an album like their sophomore full length, Go Father In Lightness, that much more incredible. And I do mean incredible. I haven’t loved an album like this in years. It’s a breathtaking ode to life, love, and perseverance backed by some of the best musicianship I’ve heard this entire decade.
“Fear and Trembling” introduces the album through a Gospel like piano backing David’s gruff but emotional vocals, before exploding into a magnificent symphony of strings, keyboard, and guitars. Go Farther…. isn’t the kind of album that reveals its brilliance multiple listens later, no, it chooses to beat you in the stomach with it straight away and leave you struggling for air by the end. Then the next track comes along and the same cycle repeats itself. The album’s lead single, “What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?” opens with a pulsating guitar line that layers upon itself to create a truly brilliant rock anthem. Lyrically we find David questioning his Christian faith in a profound way. Is faith but a mere selfish desire or a complacent sentimentality? As a Christian myself I’ve often been saddened by its abuse and self-interest focus of many of its adherents today. If all that is swept away what will be left? Is the fire something outside of us, like a system or institution, or is it something burning within us?
“Atlas Drowned” continues this trail of thought by gunning for a revolution against the pursuit of “rational self-interest.” Based on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the track is a frankly awesome declaration of watching “Atlas burn” and abandoning our own self-interests in favor of loving those around us and placing them above our own needs and desires.
From beginning to end Go Farther In Lightness is a declaration of life over death and healing after pain. It’s the complete antithesis to The Positions; the album’s middle paints this gorgeously with four mid-tempo stunners. “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane,” for example, is the kind of song Coldplay has been trying to write their entire career. The “Clocks-esq” piano, the epic build up, and the imaginative story telling of the lyrics captivates the listener through its seven-minute runtime. It details a devastating dream wherein the singer loses everything and everyone he loves before waking up and finding everything in its right place. With a newfound gratitude, the chorus rings “Do not let this thing you’ve got go to waste, do not let your heart be dismayed, it’s here by some random disclosure of grace.”
I cannot bypass this album’s middle without mentioning the string-led masterstroke that is “Achilles Come Down.” The track makes excellent use of tense violins gingerly weaving their way through a plea to save a French soldier from jumping off a roof to his death. “Achilles come down, won’t you / Get up off / Get up off the roof? / You’re scaring us / And all of us / Some of us love you / Achilles, it’s not much but there’s proof…. How the most dangerous thing is to love / How you will heal and you’ll rise above.” It is hands down one of the best tracks of this year and I haven’t even discussed the album’s strongest offering.
The record closes with a five song run that is every bit as flawless as what came before it. “The Heart Is a Muscle” is a hallowing anthem of love and empathy from one who has gone through the worst to understand and reach out to those going through the same. When David shouts “The heart is muscle, and I wanna make it strong! / Coz’ I want to overcome and try to love someone,” you know he’s shouting it with everything he has in him and it’s incredibly contagious.
“The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows” is not only the record’s best song, it’s destined to become one the best songs of the decade. It’s a culmination of everything that has come before it. It’s a realization and acceptance of the fact that not everything revolves around us. Our lives aren’t meant to be lived as a mission to look good for someone else because we are loved no matter what we do. We are more than stardust fumbling in the dark. Musically it takes cues from the best of the Goo Goo Dolls and turns it to eleven with a chorus that begs to be screamed at the top of our lungs. “‘Coz not everything means something, honey / So say the unsayable, say the most human of things / And if everything is temporary, I will bear the unbearable, terrible triteness of being.” It’s a sweeping anthem of becoming more human and more alive without any bars of caution holding us back.
“Say Yes To Life” bookends the album with a steady build and an explosive finale that screams, “Yes yes to sun! / Say yes to pain! / Say yes to sticking with a city through a thousand days of rain! / Say yes to grace! / Say yes to life!” It’s the reward at the end of the struggle, the declaration that no matter how hard life gets and no matter who hurts us, I’m going to stand up and keep living because I know there’s more. We all have an opportunity to love the world around us.
Go Farther In Lightness is nothing short of a masterpiece. It came out of nowhere to knock us off our feet, but it has done so much more than that. It will shake you up and inspire you to love with everything you have.