I am a big fan of The War on Drugs, which means I am also a big fan of their bassist Dave Hartley. Hartley has a project that goes by Nightlands, aptly named due to his central recording station being his bedroom. This one-man, multi-instrumentalist’s latest release, Oak Island, has made its way into 90FM’s heavy rotation courtesy of the ever-consistent record label Secretly Canadian.
Nowadays it isn’t hard to come across an album on an independent label that feels like a trip through outer space. Oak Island continues to prove my anecdote to be true with its flowing synth and eccentric vocals. On first listen, I immediately thought of Gayngs’ and their album Relayted, which is hardly a bad thing to be reminded of. Oak Island is different from Relayted in the fact that it is more robotic and borrows less from an 80’s soft rock sound. However, some of the tracks on Oak Island seem more accessible to me than Relayted, especially the track Nico with its upbeat yet haunting qualities. Nico’s opening guitar riff and similar percussion get your body movin’ and pouncin’ around your living room.
Another song that sticks out is I Fell In Love With A Feeling; the bass line’s catchiness is one to admire and contrasts from a few ambiguous lines (“Why you always fucked up at the end of the day, do you really wanna venge all the rest of the way”). This song also features some of the French horn that is prevalent throughout the album, such as the dreamy track So Far So Long. The jazzy French horn rides along with the music through ethereal star formations and far away galaxies.
Once I found out that Hartley is the bassist for The War on Drugs, not only did it make me really happy, but I nodded my head and said “oh yeah, it definitely makes sense.” I remember seeing The War on Drugs live and seeing Hartley playing his bass in a stiff manner and occasionally picking up his horn to play. Oak Island also shares a lot of similarities from the album Slave Ambient, and I wonder if those similarities were borrowed from Hartley or something that is his originally.