The legendary television personality Dick Clark once said, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.” It’s a statement that I find to be remarkably fitting. Music has a way of evoking different snapshots in an individual’s life. Those songs that you listened to become inextricably linked to one’s story, as if they are the film score of your own biopic. It sort of reminds me of the film Boyhood (which if you haven’t seen yet, you should) and how each of the songs that Richard Linklater features in the different years that the film tracks ground those scenes of Mason’s life.
Part of the reason I find Clark’s quote so fitting is that I can do this kind of memory recall within my own life. I can recall sitting in a hotel in Hawaii, listening to Lydia’s Illuminate on repeat as I drifted off to sleep, I can remember the first moment I heard the stunning intro to Brand New’s Daisy, “Vices”- I jumped when the band blares in- and I can remember the first time I ever heard Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree, my friend having brought the CD on a family trip and playing it for me. I can remember him singing along to the first track, and telling me its name- “Our Lawyers Made Us Change The Name of this Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued.” I remember my friend and I putting our seats all the way back in the car and listening to The Horrible Crowes’ Elsie for the first time. It is fitting then, that the third full-length album from Swedish post-rock auteur Christoffer Franzén’s project Lights and Motion is titled Chronicle. Franzén’s music seems to be perfectly suited to this kind of story-boarding of one’s life.
I can already tell that Chronicle has the ability to cement itself within that echelon, because there is something so ethereal about the record, in a way that makes it such a memorable and encapsulating listen. Though the songs on Chronicle are entirely instrumental (save for a few beautiful harmonies on a few of the tracks), These tracks are such expansive, layered labyrinths of sounds that one can easily find themselves drifting off, getting lost in the swell entirely. Franzén, who self-produced the record and recorded all the instruments on it, is something of a prodigious talent, with an ear both for both the melody of any instrument, but also how to interweave those instruments into a masterfully rich soundscape.
I am a huge fan of Friday Night Lights, the movie adaptation and especially the television adaptation. Much of the music for those adaptations of the book are delivered by Explosions in the Sky, perhaps the most well-known post-rock/instrumental artist out there. The climactic swells of Explosions in the Sky’s music is well-suited to the kind of dramatic finishes the football games in the movie and show display, and the release of the tension in Explosions in the Sky’s music is just as triumphant as the final Hail Mary pass.
Well, Lights and Motion attempts, and in many cases surpasses, Explosions in the Sky’s crescendo-heavy style by weaving intricate quiet-to-loud tension-relief moments. “Particle Storm” seems to wind down to a zephyr, a mere whisper in the wind, before exploding into a rousing major-key swell, with pulverizing drums and a memorable keyboard line. This immediate liberation is seemingly Franzén’s way of circumventing the traditional norms of the genre, and it’s a tactic that is remarkably effective.
The composition of each of Chronicle‘s nine tracks is just masterful. Each of the song’s flow together serenely without feeling too indistinguishable from one another- another common trope within the genre. A comprehensive listen reveals just how intricate the track placement is here. Whether it is placing the near-interlude “Northern Lights” after the vociferous “Reborn” (which is Chronicle‘s token “heavy” track, just as “Drift” was on Franzén’s debut Reanimation), or the uplifting “Antlers” immediately following the deluge of sorrow that is the paradoxically titled “Glow” (Hell, even the track titled “As The World Goes Away” ends up sounding happier!).
Chronicle is a record best experienced by sitting somewhere in the dark, be it a night drive in the car, laying in bed before a night’s sleep, or on a walk through the neighborhood, and letting these compositions wash over you. There is so much detail packed within each song, whether it is the delicate innocence of each stroke of a piano key on “Paper Wings” or the swelling string arrangements on the aforementioned “As The World Goes Away.” Chronicle is a record that deserves to not just be listened to, but to be experienced. To borrow a phrase from The Fault in Our Stars, this album is one that deserves to be felt.