Preceded by an ominous trailer and an unfathomable amount of hype, the album Lantern was released by Hudson Mohawke on June 15. Lantern features a unique combination of haunting sounds, chiptune melodies, and piercing vocals that has never been heard before. The man behind the moniker, Ross Birchard, is no newcomer to the electronic scene. He is currently signed to Kanye West’s label, GOOD Music, and was half of the world famous electronic duo TNGHT. Lantern is his second studio album and his first since the relatively unknown 2009 release Butter. Due to the success of his TNGHT collaboration and the six year gap between albums, the expectations were high for Lantern. I was very satisfied with Birchard’s latest release. Its seemless flow and unique sound is something to remember.
The 14 song release starts off with the title song, “Lantern.” The two minute intro is the song that was featured in the trailer for the album. The trailer presented nothing but a 90-second-long slow motion Ronald McDonald running down a dark, snowy alley. One of the darkest, yet most interesting album trailers I have witnessed sets the theme well for the album. Although I don’t particularly enjoy the intro as a song, its distinct sound is a good mood setter.
The second song on the album is perhaps the biggest hit. “Very First Breath” is possibly the most perfect form of the sound that Birchard seems to be going for in Lantern. Vocals unlike any I’ve heard before are put over a track with subtle chiptune influences and extremely solid drums. The follow up track, “Ryderz,” is very similar. Birchard certainly hits hard in the beginning of the his second studio album.
The following two tracks, “Warriors” and “Kettles,” are a bit of the dropoff. Personally, I don’t hear any interesting elements in these songs. Things pick up, however, in the sixth song, “Scud Books.” The song opens immediately with a catchy beat and solid drums. The song sounds victorious and uplifting, something I personally enjoy in music. The track gloriously builds for over three minutes, successfully adding onto its best elements until its conclusion.
Lantern then features a mellow section with three tracks that slow the pace. “Indian Steps,” “Lil Djembe,” and “Deepspace” are nothing particularly special but still worth listening to. You can certainly vibe to these pieces with a late night listen, but I wouldn’t consider them the best of the album. They do, however, contribute well to the album as a whole.
One of my favorite songs on the album, “Shadows,” is featured as the tenth song. Very similar to “Scud Books,” it has a catchy beat and hard hitting drums. But on top of this, “Shadows” is beautifully composed as a chiptune song. First listening to this song, I couldn’t help but picture a legendary boss fight. The choppy vocals and muffled background sounds make for a unique track that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to.
Birchard slows it down once again for the track “Resistance.” Featuring solid vocals but falling flat on production, the album falls off a bit at this point. The concluding three tracks, “Portrait Of Luci,” “System,” and “Brand New World,” are certainly of a higher quality. “Portrait Of Luci” is one of the few slower songs on the album that I enjoy. The ending melody is especially a delightful listen. The penultimate song of the album, “System,” is another chiptune song that is uplifting and inspiring. Although, at this point in Lantern, it’s playing second fiddle to the first half of the album. The concluding song, “Brand New World,” fits well, embodying the theme of the album. With a high BPM and unique sounds, the album ends on a positive note.
After several listens and some time to let my opinion settle, Lantern is a very solid album with a lot of positives and few shortcomings. I absolutely love new sounds and experimental tracks, which this album has an abundance of. However, the slower parts of the album present nothing new to the table. They’re not bad, but not particularly interesting either. Overall, I’d give Hudson Mohawke’s second studio release, Lantern, a 3/5.