When a songwriter releases a new single or new album that pretty definitively seems to illuminate a beloved but older sound style, considerations of an impulsive grab for nostalgia or latching onto a throwback trend inevitably emerge from the margins of public thought – especially for fans of which the style from years gone by has elicited buried memories. All the same, not every brush with the past is one resultant from deliberate, pre-meditated planning. Sometimes it’s just the sound that happens to bring out something special and emotionally evocative for an artist. This is perhaps the best way to describe what Lewis Beard, known on stages as The Wirelight, has found for himself in the music he’s crafted for his forthcoming album Megaturquoise and particularly so with its final single, “Part of This.”
While The Wirelight is essentially a solo project from Beard, the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter isn’t shy about connecting with others when the creative need calls for it – the song’s title coincidentally, serendipitously reflecting the multi-person efforts behind its cultivation. That instinct serves “Part of This” very well, as what starts off sounding like an innocent, mid-tempo ballad steered by electro-acoustic guitar, comes to open up well beyond the all-too-common lines of “solo artist with a guitar.” It’s in the gradual growth of “Part of This” that the somewhat sonically nostalgic colors of The Wirelight emerge. However, because the style rises up with a relaxed steadiness, the sentimental personality of whole song ultimately feels natural rather than gimmicky or forced.
Still, it would be dismissive to say that the beginning of “Part of This” doesn’t pull its own share of blast-from-the-past heartstrings. The combination of a very modest electro-acoustic tone strumming out the opening rhythm and a slightly more pronounced, reverb-laden clean electric lead adding complementary notes on top like droplets making graceful ripples in a pond, makes for a clear and crisp pairing very reminiscent of early 2000s / 2010s indie pop. The touch of somberness in Beard’s voice through the opening lyrics, wherein he enunciates the ends of each word with smooth clarity, only adds to the song’s refreshing but wistful aura.
15 years of Polaroids stuck inside the bottom drawer
I won’t take another one
I don’t know what the wait is for
It’s not about you
this house is old,
it’s needed something for a while
Paint peeling off
the roof is always leaking
and the basement’s cold
–Lyrics from “Part of This”
The decision to keep the vocals largely unaltered – aside from some delightfully layered and lushly produced harmonizing that unfolds in the choruses – also calls back to a past preference for more natural elements to drive a song’s appeal. Letting go of any concern for the chronological context of “Part of This’s” musical aesthetic, The Wirelight bears a voice that does feel rather effortlessly well-suited to this kind of modest but vulnerable exposure in an arrangement. Beard’s inherent style of singing can handle the exposed clarity required of him when there’s no major altering effects to hide behind or otherwise change his voice with. The intermittent ebb and flow of reverb with delay that is present on “Part of This” stands as more of a well-defined but ultimately single element of the song than a commanding aspect of its sonic identity.
What does take a prominent place alongside The Wirelight’s vocals is the recurring trumpet part provided by guest player Emmanuel Echem. Not only do the fundamentally bright timbre and louder dynamics of the trumpet add a bold complementary layer against the overall richness of the song’s overall mix but Echem’s tone is left even less altered than the vocals, giving its tonal presence that much more stark contrast, without Echem’s actual part needing to be either excessively acrobatic or dramatically louder to have an experiential impact. One could liken it to a dry wine served alongside a dish blended with a dense multi-ingredient sauce. The drink doesn’t have to have any extra enhancements; its natural qualities make it more than appreciable.
(A similar addition of trumpet can be heard on songs like the TTNG’s “Elk” but in the case of the latter, the contrast isn’t as striking – in fact the trumpet actually lends more smooth tone in that case – due to the inherently drier, clearer style of TTNG’s music on its own.)
From front to back, “Part of This” grows not only through its instrumental expanse but with its moments of emotional impact. By the last third of the track, at one of the final rounds of the chorus, the song comes to feature a steady snare beat, which also gives the music some tonal punctuation and something of an aural palette cleanser between the cavernously-produced melody. Through that addition, The Wirelight is able to usher in a perfectly placed mini-swell, complete with drum accentuation on every beat with a mild crescendo, all to further emphasize the sense of a full-band surge before the song starts its descent to closure. Interestingly enough, the song’s instrumental finish doesn’t return to mimic beginning with just the electro-acoustic guitar. Instead, it opts to have a subtle bass line and Echem’s trumpet sandwich the original guitar’s part to close out the song with an instrument delicately covering every range. Though this might seem like a missed opportunity for a bit clever bookend symmetry, given the slightly melancholy mood of the song, choosing to end the lyrics on the line “I think love can be a part of this,” followed by enough instrumentation to create a sense of tonal completeness once the vocals stop, might just be an even more clever ending to show the sparks of a brighter outlook from where “Part of This” all started.