Lilac Shadows: The Other Side of Night

★★★½  [Paisley Thundersounds; August 13]

When The Other Side of Night begins, Lilac Shadows’ Sam Logan is glued to the screen. “I woke up in a familiar zone / Spinning wheels and reading phones,” he sings on “Novacaition,” a scene that’s nauseatingly familiar for anyone whose first move in the morning is to reach for the nearest social media feed.

Caught between doomscrolling and an uncomfortable investment in the lives of strangers, he asks, does it ever get better than this?

This isn’t a surprising sentiment for Lilac Shadows, who took an extended hiatus after 2015’s Brutalism, a decision that Logan has said was influenced, in part, by the unremitting stream of bad news that came with Trump’s inauguration. Looking back, after a year and a half in a pandemic, that era almost feels quaint in comparison.

But whether you start the clock in November 2016 or in March 2020, it’s this collective mood of anxious, overstimulated waiting—illuminated by the numbing glow of the phone screen—that concerns Logan, who is now based in Greensboro, on his third (and, he says, final) LP as Lilac Shadows.

With song titles like “Modern Terror” and “MK-Ultra” telegraphing this certain kind of angst, one might expect the shadowy post-punk of Brutalism to be a natural fit for the record.

On the contrary, The Other Side of Night lets in more light than any Lilac Shadows release to date.

Where Brutalism found the group recording in the former warehouse of Durham’s Scrap Exchange, filling every crevice with its shoegaze squall, The Other Side of Night scales back on the noise while bringing new elements into focus, from the Casiotone daydream of the instrumental “(content)” to the motorik jangle-pop of “What Comes Next” and “True Ever After.” (The former features backing vocals from Jacki Huntington, a.k.a. Teevee Nicks; the latter features Alli Rogers, who has lent her mixing talents to many a local release.)

By the final stretch of the album, Lilac Shadows seems to have summoned a determination to move beyond despair, toward something more hopeful than the anxious paralysis of “Modern Terror.” For a project that now goes back 10 years in the Triangle music scene, The Other Side of Night marks the end of a chapter, but it leaves with the promise of a new dawn. 

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