An intimate, soul-stirring record built off space, emotion, and introspection, Lanterns on the Lake’s ‘The Realist’ EP is a soft and tender outpouring of a most beautiful kind of inner upheaval.
Stream: “The Realist” – Lanterns on the Lake
It’s funny what music can put you through…
Lanterns on the Lake began 2020 much like we all did, with a hearty dose of hope and verve: February’s critically acclaimed, Mercury Prize nominated Spook the Herd is a grandiose, sweeping record full of energy, passion, and promise. After one of the darkest, most difficult years in living memory, Lanterns on the Lake recently finished 2020 with a hushed coda that, intentionally or otherwise, speaks to the present moment with raw vulnerability and visceral feeling. Their five-track The Realist EP bookends a year that was, ushering in 2021 not with a smile or a frown, but with a comforting, knowing embrace. An intimate, soul-stirring record built off space, emotion, and introspection, The Realist is a soft and tender outpouring of a most beautiful kind of inner upheaval.
You know I dream in Morse Code
And I’ve seen my fate in the veins of a marble seat
White and blue
This lonely tightrope is hard
Don’t pull me down
And just like every seed
Every moth needs a flame
I like pixels in my blueprint
And I found hope in the brushstroke
Of a messed up peace
Hanging in plain view
Released December 18, 2020 via Bella Union, The Realist is as raw as it is a finessed balance of turmoil and grace: An elegant record that showcases another side of Lanterns on the Lake, the English indie rock five-piece comprised of Hazel Wilde, Paul Gregory, Oliver Ketteringham, Bob Allan, Angela Chan. Active for over a decade, Lanterns on the Lake have grown in leaps and bounds since 2010’s Lungs Quicken EP and 2011’s subsequent debut album, the gorgeous Gracious Tide, Take Me Home. They made big waves earlier this year with their fourth album Spook the Herd, which was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize earlier this summer.
“Since the record came out, there were a few people saying that they thought it would be shortlisted, but I don’t know, you don’t want to get your hopes up, or maybe you think people are just being kind. So it was a very welcome, beautiful surprise when we found out we’d been shortlisted,” frontwoman Hazel Wilde tells Atwood Magazine. “It has been incredible how many people have been turned on to our work off the back of the Mercury Prize. In ordinary times a shortlisted artist would probably be on tour right now, riding that wave so it’s been frustrating to not be able to capitalize on that momentum as much as we’d have liked.”
While an EP is no replacement for a national or international tour, The Realist certainly helps to fill an important gap, giving fans and the band alike something to hold onto as 2021 gets underway with a UK lockdown in place, and COVID-19 continuing to ravage much of the world. While the song compositions date back to pre-COVID times, Wilde explains that the band recorded them in largely separate spaces, isolated because of the pandemic. Though it’s spatially related to Spook the Herd, The Realist should be regarded as its own standalone project.
“The songs for this EP were all written at the time of writing Spook the Herd, but we didn’t quite feel they fitted together, musically or narratively, with the songs that went on the album,” Wilde explains. “Some of the themes on Spook are thematically ‘big’, whereas this EP has zoomed right in on some of the details. It’s more introspective. Recording a lot of the EP in our homes during lockdown also added to that introspective and intimate feel Spook is for playing on the stereo. The Realist is more of a headphones kind of record.”
Opening the EP is the record’s namesake and centerpiece, “The Realist” – an Atwood Editor’s Pick previously praised as cinematic yet terribly intimate, and hitting with a soft and subtle punch to the gut. “You know I dream in Morse code,” vocalist Hazel Wilde sings solemnly from the start. “And I’ve seen my fate in the veins of a marble sink, white and blue.” Wistful pianos and soaring strings rise with a swell of emotion as the band weave together a musical moment of silence: An invitation for somber reflection. Like a beacon of warm, inviting light in a foreboding, oppressive darkness, “The Realist” beckons us forth through beautiful, breathtaking instrumentation and arrangement.
It’s a song full of nuance and sonic color – as endlessly enthralling as it is haunting and majestic. “The Realist is a song about being a dreamer, clinging to a vision and following your heart – even when that path can seem deluded to others,” Hazel Wilde explains. “It was one of the songs that didn’t make it onto the (band’s 2020) album Spook The Herd as it didn’t fit sonically or narratively. It felt like it came from another place. So we began putting together this EP. We wanted to sculpt an intimate “headphones” record. One for the introverts and dreamers, the ones that still find beauty and magic in things. Recording some of the songs over lockdown in our homes helped in creating that world.”
Wilde’s chorus is particularly striking – a space of deep emotional resonance: “This lonely tightrope is hard enough, don’t pull me down.” There’s something heartbreaking about this line – a sensation of loneliness in the act of clinging to one’s vision at all costs. It’s a sort of call to the dreamers, for the dreamers:
This lonely tightrope is hard
Don’t pull me down
And just like every seed
Every moth needs a flame
Wilde explains further: “‘Realist’ is the antithesis of the narrator in that title track. The song is about a dreamer or visionary, someone believing they have a calling in life, even when those around them are trying to pull them back down to Earth. I liked how by calling it ‘The Realist’ it kind of turned that idea on its head – you know, kind of saying that maybe this approach to life – following your heart, is what is actually real.”
From Wilde’s perspective, The Realist EP – which carries on its hushed tones through the poignant “Understated,” “Baddies (Model City Version),” “Romans,” and “Model City” – is not necessarily a showcase of who Lanterns on the Lake are at this point in their career, but rather a display of what they can do, which may not be apparent from their other LPs and live performances.
“It’s probably more a case of it showing a side to us that we wouldn’t have included on the album or live. I think with an EP like this, it’s less of a statement than releasing a proper album, so you can afford to let people see a different side of you and put things on there that you wouldn’t usually.”
I like that we are ending the year in this way after starting the year with Spook the Herd. I’m pleased these songs have a home and will be heard.
A big aspect of this EP is the theme of silence, and the interplay between music and silence. It feels only fitting that these songs, which are so soft and yet feel so large, would arrive at 2020’s tail end; they carry through them a wintry sense of inward reflection and self-knowing.
“It’s probably a cliché thing to talk about the ‘space between the notes’, but there’s definitely something to be said for letting the moment hang there,” Wilde says, adding that she ultimately hopes this EP is “a comforting soundtrack to these winter months.”
As she sings so tenderly in “Baddies, “It’s funny what music can put you through.” Lanterns on the Lake have given listeners a source of strength through impassioned music that breathes with the full spectrum emotion: It’s a vast, yet unapologetically intimate affair. Life may still feel very dark, but The Realist can be a vessel of comfort, and for those who seek it, a vessel of light.
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Lanterns on the Lake’s The Realist EP with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their latest record!
Stream: ‘The Realist’ – Lanterns on the Lake
:: Inside The Realist EP ::
“The Realist” is a song about being a dreamer, clinging to a vision and following your heart – even when that path can seem deluded to others. The narrator feels they have calling and they see magic and signs in life’s details.
This one is about the lies we tell to protect the people we love.
Baddies (Model City version)
This version has completely different feel to the album / original version of “Baddies.” The song itself is about about division/ polarisation around us at the moment. All sides seeing the other as the baddies; the stirring up of hate by parts of the media and those in power. Also about the paradox: by speaking up against it you become part of it, you’re taking sides. This version is more mournful than the album version. I took the extra part of the title ‘Model City’ from Donna Stonecipher’s book of poems. By using it the title I wanted to allude to this idealised version of the world that feels unattainable/ unreal a lot of the time.
This was one that was in the running for Spook The Herd but like we’ve said before, it didn’t fit in the world of ‘Spook’. We actually had a lot of fun working on this one in the rehearsal room together. Since this interview is for an American audience I should mention that where we live, in the North East of England, is where the Romans built Hadrian’s wall, a huge wall that ran from coast to coast to protect the northern edge of their empire. You can still see it if you drive out to the countryside. That’s where the line comes from “where the Roman’s built their wall”.
We wanted this track to be the last thing people would hear from us this year. It’s like ending a chapter with a question. It closes things off but also opens things out for the future.
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