Chad VanGaalen – Light Information
As Chad VanGaalen moves into fatherhood, his latest album covers the perils of maturity as much as it does his usual points of anxiety: detachment, isolation and alienation
Chad VanGaalen’s music is often cloaked in ugliness that makes it all the more beautiful and honest. The melodies themselves are sweet – instantly likeable despite the sourness surrounding them. Just like the picturebook style of his animation, there’s a playfulness to his anxious (and sometimes outright horrifying) stories. He’s spent over a decade exorcising thoughts that are often wrapped in an innocence and the wide-eyed spirit of a seven year old.
The ugliness makes sense: everything is terrifying and terrific at once when you’re seven. The gorgeous state of dread in much of his work has connected with many fans who are eager to dive back into his world, but even Chad VanGaalen ages. As he moves into fatherhood, his latest album covers the perils of maturity as much as it does his usual points of anxiety: detachment, isolation and alienation.
Light Information is a mixed bag of indie rock gems, ramshackle in sound and structure, but there are clear lyrical themes. Broken Bell has VanGaalen painting a portrait of his dad, to raw and personal effect: 'I should really visit him before he is dead / Cuz we are getting old / Our cells just won’t divide like they told us / But I’m not really good at this kind of thing'. On Old Heads, he uses a fantasy sci-fi setting to picture a world where useless body parts are recycled when they wear out, and we all get to go on as normal. Lead single Pine and Clover, a lilting ballad, has VanGaalen in awe of a girl specifically for her delinquent lifestyle, and even she leaves him.
These stinging stories are swathed in gooey instrumentals, alive with production details and rich instrumentation. Broken Bell still stuns with a surprise saxophone break. The gurgling synth on Old Heads is balanced out by fluttering guitars and springy bass. Mystery Elementals uses eerie, stuttering hi-hats to create tingles. Golden Oceans just needs a stomping riff. Sometimes you want to cry about your inevitable death, sometimes you just want to thrash around in your pyjamas. VanGaalen does both majestically.
Listen to: Old Heads, Pine and Clover