Album Reviews

Neil & Liam Finn – Lightsleeper (PIAS)

Tim Gruar

According to the publicity blurb, this album was born out of Liam's big fat Greek wedding three years ago. 

It's a crunchy, but lush listen.  Music swaggers between Neil's early experimental departures from Crowded House (especially on the intro Vangelis-like Prelude and the sofa surfer Meet Me in the Air) and the even plusher strings on the duet Listen.  

All throughout you can hear the trademark harmonies that Neil did with Tim and now he continues this with his eldest, Liam.  Listen is a very fine example of that.  It's layered, poignant and a perfectly crafted song that draws on the legacy of The Beatles and later of the Crowdies and the Enz but still remains distinctly 'Finn'.

Neil wrote of airports and isolation and distance on his last Crowded House album, and the previous solo effort, and that theme returns on the huge seven minute track, Where's My Room, which breaks down into experimental electronica towards the end.  I read a review that thought it was a mix of Kate Bush and The Stone Roses.  Maybe.  More like an experimental jam with only the slightest of structures and real fragility to it.  This song could fall apart at any moment.

I really enjoyed the ghostly pianos and strange digital voices on the start of the exalted Hiding Place. It's incredibly cinematic, right down to the lyrics "everybody's life could be a movie' and the interjections from what sounds like a pheromone calling out like a drowning lost soul in another ocean of strings.

The most 'grungy' of the songs on this album is Ghosts.  It is the most like a Liam Finn song, yet still holds together with the glue of Neil's catchy hooks.  It thuds along with layers and layers of vocal backing provided by falsettos from one or both men.  It's uncanny how their voices sound so similar. 

The song Anger Plays A Part reminds me of a Wilco number.  No surprise given Liam’s toured with the band and that the Chicago-based band has recorded at Neil's Roundhead studio.  It’s a family affair with Sharon Finn helping out on the bass.  

There's a track towards the end, We Know What It Means, that, in structure at least, reminds me of the Finn album, made over a decade before with brother Tim.  It has more of a campfire strum along feel to it.  The song has a dark musical current that goes against the warm nostalgic glow that has inspired the song.  

The album finishes on a sweet note, with Hold Her Close.  The ocean washes in the track, the sunny disposition and the dawning feeling of delicate guitars and Liam's sweet honey vocals - this could only be a dedication to his bride and a remembrance of his wedding.  

This album needs further listening.  I'm not done yet.  I need to give it more time.  So will you. 


Click here to stream or buy
Released: 24 Aug 2018

Written By: Tim Gruar