Husband-and-wife duo Gareth Schumacher and Kari Wasoba perform as Lantern Lights, drawing inspiration from '70s pop, bedroom folk, post-riot grrl singer-songwriters and, they claim, '90s Top 40 jams. You won't hear anything as ear-wormy as "Steal My Sunshine" on the pair's self-titled debut, but a keen sense of pop music's tropes is wedded with enough sonic tinkering to give grist to the sweetness. And when that sweetness kicks in, it lands squarely in power-pop utopia. Opening track "Choices" lifts off with Byrdsy guitar jangle and errant combo organ chords which sets up Wasoba's tremulous vox — it's like "Incense and Peppermints" mashed up with Dig Me Out.
Wasoba sings lead on most tracks, though Schumacher steps forward a few times. Not coincidentally, the album's best moments, like the shambling closing cut "I Couldn't Leave," find the spouses and bandmates singing in congress. (The record was recorded and performed with Kari's brother, RFT contributor Ryan Wasoba, and Dan Meehan, who plays in Humdrum with Schumacher.) A bouncy Fender Rhodes waltz kicks off "Family Tree" with a '70s AM Gold tint, and Schumacher's lead vocals prove a nice counterpoint to Wasoba's charmingly strident approach to the mic. He sings with a slight quaver, like a less adenoidal (and less precious) Colin Meloy, though the folksy picking of "Red Leaf" suggests that Lantern Lights could just as easily cash in on the neo-folk wave of pleasant harmonies and imagined bucolicisms. That same gentle mood comes back on "Angels We Create," which channels both Laura Veirs' pop-minded acoustic songs and Midlake's love affair with British folk conventions. Thankfully they choose a more righteous, and adventurous, path. The sound of xylophone and flute (both played by Wasoba, unsimultaneously) give both earthy and jazzy vibes to "Red Leaf," and the song — like the whole album — never settles in a groove for too long before shifting the focus or the beat.