Audio Reviews
Am I Right or Am I Right
by Fulton Lights
self-released (2012)
Am I Right or Am I Right
7 / 10
It was roughly two years ago that I was introduced to the pop-rock compositions of Baltimore-born singer-songwriter Andrew Spencer Goldman. Specifically, to the self-published 3 Songs EP by Fulton Lights, the collaborative successor to Goldman’s previous work as Maestro Echoplex. Featuring horns by Peter Hess of World/Inferno Friendship Society, percussion by T.J. Lipple of Aloha, and guitar by John Davis of Title Tracks, the 3 Songs EP was a short-but-sweet hit of hazy vocals, gritty riffs, and taught kitwork accented by sharp shots of synth and burnished by resonant brass and reeds.

It was a familiar sound to be sure, but it was one which Goldman & co. were more than able to make their own. Better yet, they decided—with the help of Eggs’ Rob Christiansen, The Future Brite’s Karen Kanan Corrêa, and Bon Savants’ Thom Moran—to further expand and explore this sound in Fulton Lights’ third full-length, Am I Right or Am I Right. Never know who (or what) is going to show up next, really.

On record, the latest permutation of the Fulton Lights ensemble comes across like a modern blend of Neil Young, Jim Morrison, and the E Street Band filtered through Beck Hansen, Wayne Coyne, James Mercer, and Isaac Brock—that is, the essential folk-tinged blues-rock with a big band bent, now layered with spacey atmospherics, emboldened by psychedelic tweaks, and accented with angular avant-pop touches. As haphazard as that may read, Am I Right or Am I Right manages to drift around the modern pop-rock spectrum with remarkable ease and agility, nigh-seamlessly segueing from the blues-y, head-bobbing apologies of “Baby I’m Tryin’” (dig that twinkling toy piano and rousing saxophone) to the funky rhythms, crunchy guitar, and squawking organ of “Can’t Take My Love”, then from the manic beat and reverb-drenched guitar-rock of “Don’t Go Away So Soon” to the reggae-affecting croons and cries of “If You Can Make It Through the Dark”. Rather limber, this lot.

Title track “Am I Right or Am I Right” throws sturdy funk rhythms and psych-rock trippiness against the ecstatic sing-song cadence of a fire-and-brimstone street preacher for some quick-rhyming and gleefully paradoxical theo-philosophizing. Next, there are the sharp left turns presented by the torch-carrying coos and synthetic shimmer of “We Were Young and That Was Long Ago”, the shockingly (for this bunch) straightforward pop-rock punch of “Don’t Let the Animals In”, and the sexy-time grooves of “A Minor Happenstance as Things Go”. Shifting gears once again, “The Riddle in Me” proffers a slow-building, somber rumination on personal development and present dissatisfaction, its hyper-affected guitar skittering and scratching alongside propulsive bass, weighty percussion, and emphatic sax.

Rounding out the album, “Still Dreaming the Same Dreams” gets low, slow, and reflective before “Stout Hearts, Feeble Minds” rockets back up with buzzsaw riffs, toe-tapping rhythms, and sundry effects while calling out to the audience to “Keep your hands up, it’s a holdup!”—less a threat than a polite request, albeit one with which a live audience would likely be all too happy to comply.

Fair warning: for as frequently as Andrew Spencer Goldman and his fellows in Fulton Lights mix and match their manifold musical swatches, Am I Right or Am I Right can seem a bit hectic and scattershot at first blush. Still, once the initial shock wears off, it’s easy to see how well the whole lot hangs together, making consecutive listens all the more inviting and rewarding. So, dig in.

Self-released on September 1, 2012, Fulton Lights’ Am I Right or Am I Right is available for purchase in digital and limited-edition LP formats via Bandcamp.
Posted by: Tom Körp

Audio Reviews (September 1st, 2012)

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