Responsible for arguably the best synth-pop album of 2012 with Make Me Believe In Hope, Welsh singer-songwriter Rod Thomas certainly has a lot to live up to with Life Is Easy, the second record released under his Gremlins-inspired moniker Bright Light Bright Light.
The recruitment of The Invisible Men, the production team behind massive hits by Jessie J and Iggy Azalea, Scissor Sisters’ Del Marquis and none other than pop legend Sir Elton John, initially suggests that the 31-year-old may have eschewed the subtleties of his debut in favour of chasing that commercial breakthrough which has so far proven to be frustratingly elusive.
But thankfully, with the exception of “I Believe,” a hands-in-the-air EDM-tinged anthem which veers a little too close to Calvin Harris territory, Bright Light Bright Light has wisely decided to keep plugging away with the same kind of beautifully melancholic early 90s-inspired electro-pop that made Life Is Easy’s predecessor such an unexpected joy.
His duet with the Rocket Man, “I Wish We Were Leaving,” an emotive tale of two lovers reluctantly and amicably waving goodbye to their relationship, set against a backdrop of haunting choral vocals, skittering rhythms and atmospheric synths, inevitably provides one of the album’s highlights. But the gorgeously bittersweet “In Your Care” and bubbling Technicolor synth-pop of “An Open Heart” also prove that few can work the whole “crying at the discotheque” angle much better.
Elsewhere, “Good Luck” is a retro club classic-meets-vindictive riposte to an ex which hints that despite his nice-guy exterior, Thomas isn’t a man to be messed with. “Lust For Life” combines Broadway melodies with shimmering electronica on an unashamedly theatrical number which couldn’t be further removed from the Iggy Pop standard of the same name. And closing track “Happiness” is a convincing foray into moody chillout reminiscent of The Beloved’s after-hours staple “Sweet Harmony.”
If anything, Life Is Easy might just be a little too elegant and understated to give Bright Light Bright Light that mainstream crossover he deserves. But old-school ravers who now prefer their dance music with a touch of class will find plenty to enjoy.