Burning Lighthouse

Floating Opera

Jarmusic, 2003


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Like a decent bottle of wine, you're not too sure exactly how to enjoy Floating Opera's latest release, Burning Lighthouse. Because the album will likely contain the most lush and musically gorgeous textures you will hear this year, part of you wants to let it linger in your CD player at home for maximum enjoyment, much like swishing wine around in a glass and sniffing it, instead of drinking it from the bottle. However, Burning Lighthouse contains enough rocking moments to make it an ideal soundtrack for a late summer drive.

Floating Opera formed initially as a side project Mercy Rule and the Millions, two bands from Lincoln, Nebraska who each scored a major-label release in the '90s. While both bands hung up their guitars later in that decade, Floating Opera continued to record. Since forming in 1993, the band has had more than 30 musicians circulate in and out of the studio during their ten-year career (sort of like the way Queens of the Stone Age record their albums, only with lush harmonies and pop orchestration).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the surface, Burning Lighthouse almost sounds too gorgeous to criticize. The complex musical orchestration automatically conjures comparisons to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds era as well as Elvis Costello's more sophisticated recordings. The storytelling in most of the songs feels like a collection of short stories in a literary magazine. The album even has an alternative version to one of their tracks to close out the album, giving it a thematic, albeit slightly contrived, overall feel.

There are moments where the lavish musical ornamentation of Burning Lighthouse threaten to careen the band off into pretentiousness. However, the percussion (shared duties by Ron Albertson and Paul Tisdale) and crunching guitar work by Jon Taylor usually produce enough of a thunder to rattle your speakers. If that wasn't enough, members of the New York hardcore experimental act Liars pop in for an appearance.

Some of the most immediately appealing songs on Burning Lighthouse develop when the hard rock chops of the band mesh with pop orchestration. "Believer," a song that has the feel of one of Led Zeppelin's sweeping epics, is a perfect example of the band's ability to effortlessly fuse different styles together without sounding like a novelty. Lori Allison's vocals are able to mold into whatever style Floating Opera pursues on this disc. It also helps that Heidi Ore lends her pipes to some of the more uptempo tracks, such as "Agnes in Furs" and "Shapes I Brought Back With Me."

At times, Burning Lighthouse sounds like it's too sophisticated to be enjoyed as a good rock album. Yet, after a few listens, the pop melodies are as irresistible and catchy as some of the poppiest tracks on radio. Fortunately, Burning Lighthouse is sweet enough to have you craving seconds without giving you a toothache.

(Ed.'s Note: Burning Lighthouse can be purchased at www.jarmusic.com )

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jarmusic, and is used for informational purposes only.