Son Lux has been around since 2008, acting as Ryan Lott’s solo music project alongside numerous other production jobs and collaborations that he had been doing. While he has been a part of Sisyphus, a collaborative project with Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti, it’s only now that his main musical project is expanding in numbers. Despite Son Lux’s evolution into a band with the addition of members Ian Chang on drums and Rafiq Bhatia on guitar, the general direction of the music hasn’t changed as much as it probably should have.
Bones retains a similar sound to the previous album Lanterns, but in a different way. Songs are often minimal in their production, trying to keep the focus on Lott’s wavering vocals and the frequent use of female vocals performing smaller parts in the songs. Stuttering and abstract beats are common, with blasts of percussion constantly appearing and a sense of abrasiveness being another common theme in the sounds used. The commonly recurring elements in the production pose one of the biggest issues listening to the album, with songs often fading into each other rather than sticking into your head. With the static way Lott sings throughout the album on top of this, it only exacerbates the problem; Lott’s vocals aren’t bad, but their presence was much more fitting on Lanterns than on this album.
At the same time, it’s a sound that works well when it’s done right. This Time stands out as the strongest song, with its frantic percussion throughout and the addition of synths in general, with a strong use of the female vocals to give the song a stronger hook and one of Lott’s stronger performances, it has the strongest identity out of any of its competitors on the album. The featured guitar solo also adds a nice highlighting moment for Bhatia; the song definitely wouldn’t be as powerful without it.
Now I Want takes the minimalism of the album even further, opening with nothing but some echoing strikes of percussion accompanying Lott for almost a minute before additional vocals and elements come in, and yet never containing more than the vocals of both Lott and the female, plus percussion and a clap track at the same time, before closing with a heavier piano focus and less percussion. I Am the Others sounds more general in the grand scheme of the album, but its restrained percussion and vocal arrangement makes it another highlight rather than another song hidden in the pack. The minimalism of the album works best when stripped back to its core rather than relying on crazy percussion and sound effects, and also creates a better environment for Lott’s voice.
It’s hard to say whether this is a case of missed potential or not. While it’s not a bad album, in total it relies heavily on its standout moments to carry the surrounding songs. The album is especially entertaining in the moments that the new members get a chance to shine as the highlight of the song like in This Time, but these moments are too sparse to add much. Bones is a solid starting point for the new line-up of Son Lux, but there’s also some more work to be done.