The Philadelphia band the War On Drugs seems to leave a mark on the music world every year, both directly and indirectly. The outfit topped a number of “Best of 2011″ lists with Slave Ambient, a modern classic establishing lead singer Adam Granduciel as a visionary songwriter. Former member Kurt Vile has also embarked on a critically-acclaimed solo career, with his third full-length album set for release this spring. And the franchise gets another entry on January 22 when bassist Dave Hartley releases Oak Island, his second LP under his Nightlands moniker.
Most War On Drugs songs tend to unfold gradually piece by atmospheric piece, and Hartley is key to setting the foundation. His bass work is integral to the band, and he also appeared on Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 album Epic. Yet Hartley is also an accomplished solo performer, first debuting Nightlands with Forget The Mantra in 2010. The album is much more meditative than his work with the War On Drugs, reflecting the solitary nature of home recording.
But for Oak Island, Hartley considerably expands the Nightlands universe. First single “So Far So Long” is built around an insistent bossa nova beat and Hartley’s multi-layered vocals while guitars and trumpets come and go in the mix. It sounds like it’s beamed in from another dimension, but there’s enough substance to the song to keep it grounded in the here and now. Spin recently named the artist as one to watch this year, and for good reason: while Hartley made his name with his main band, this year looks to belong to Nightlands.