But Lights Out, Bishop Allen's uncharacteristically long-awaited new album, presents the band in impeccable form: Simultaneously sophisticated and playful, its 12 songs sound both easy and fussed-over, as if Bishop Allen had been recording four tracks a month all this time, only to select and fine-tune the very best for this record.
From the first moments of the zippy, album-opening single "Start Again," Lights Out feels stacked with ringers. But some of its best moments are tucked into the deep cuts: The two songs that hand lead-vocal duties over to Darbie Nowatka, especially "Black Hole," suggest that Bishop Allen could spin off a Camera Obscura-esque sister project to tremendous effect. Summery but subtle, Lights Out is the sound of a band that's mastered the art of quality control, just in time to release an album that's all highlights.
The words ‘infectious’ and ‘catchy’ certainly apply to it. Overall, this does create a rather generically uplifting tune, but uplifting all the same. There’s a distinct contrast between synthetic and organic sound throughout, although nothing really manages to stand out as a prominent feature. Even the vocals blend themselves with the floating hum that the track becomes as its elements intertwine and move.
This gentle motion will certainly make it the track that people put on in the background at barbecues. There is no denying that it will serve the purpose well but some may feel uncomfortable with the fact that this seems to be as far as the duties of the whole album might reach.
There’s no doubt that many people will still want to have what is sure to be very a listenable album as part of their collection but Lights Out still has the potential to be an eyebrow-raisingly simplistic effort after three preceding full-length albums and a ten-year career from Bishop Allen.