When you focus an entire album around lyrics, those lyrics had better be as dynamic and engaging as possible. Let me preface, though; New Idea Society's The World Is Bright and Lonely is
not a spoken word endeavour. The instrumentation, minimal as it may be, does accent singer Mike Law's oft-complex musings about as well as could be asked for.
And when things are good, as they are on "Don't Sleep," the plaintive instrumental background is almost an afterthought. Law's storytelling is the focus.
It's a very simple and very common topic among singer-songwriters like Law, but the perspective of a romantic tryst presented in "Don't Sleep" is oddly compelling. Lines like "I am not sure where I am, but the record plays and the ceiling spins / So I will slip right in and hold you close until my darkness dims." It doesn't leave much to the imagination, but the real earnest inflection that Law sings with brings some real strength to the track. The disillusioned "Waking Dreams and Rooms" casts a similar feel, only this time it's the somber story of a man dealing with loss.
Dazed on a mountain slope my grandmother wanders home, along the high hollow the chill never broke / Her mother says with a drawl, 'oh child, the lord says it's bound to be your fault' / And no house will ever again be your home, I am not sure what pain is, or how she coped.The haunting way in which those words are delivered resonate much more loudly than the delicate piano keystrokes and strings that accompany them. There's just something more tangible in the song than the average slow-paced, melancholy track. It feels much more real, and it's by far the standout of the album. It's followed up by what could easily be a Bright Eyes B-side, "Part II: The World Is Bright and Lonely." When Law instructs to "grab the darkness with your toughest top two teeth, and bite right through into the obscene," one can't help but picture Conor Oberst looking over his shoulder with a wry smile, knowing Law's pen may well have been his own.
There's a real solid basis on this album, but there's also some missteps ("Single Thread," "Compass,") that keep it from reaching to the next level. The really great songs sparkle, though, and if the lyrics on "Waking Dreams and Rooms" don't make an impact on you, I just don't know what will.