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Lights of Heaven
Artist: Morella's Forest
Label: Big Beef and Endearing Records
Four years after leaving Tooth and Nail, Morella’s Forest is back with their fourth record Tiny Lights of Heaven. Along with their new labels, Big Beef and Endearing Records, they also have a new sound.
When Morella’s Forest first began they sounded like a female version of Starflyer 59. But these days they have shed the heavily distorted guitars for bubblegum pop and hushed vocals, which likens them to The Cardigans or to a poppier version of Sixpence None the Richer.
The first track on Tiny Lights of Heaven, “Running,” is a solid song with a couple moments where it even sounds like “Human” from The Pretenders. Tracks two through four, “Shining Stars,” “Choppy” and “Lullaby,” are also some of the best on the album, but the songs that follow them seem to get lost in the shuffle. Tracks eight and nine, “Gentle Go The Hours” and “Hopeless,” are solid, especially “Hopeless,” which finally awakens the listener with some long-needed intensity. Unfortunately, instead of ending the album with the best song, the record ends on a less interesting note that fails to grab the listener’s attention with “Never Let Go."
On the whole, this is Morella’s best album thus far, but there is clearly room for growth. Sadly, roughly half of Tiny Lights of Heaven makes pop music seem boring and uninspired, yet at the same time there are five songs that would make an excellent pop EP.
Matt Modrich 8/18/2002
After a four-year layoff, the kids from Morella's Forest are back on a new set of labels with a slightly modified lineup...and the results are quite nice. Exit the shoegazing of yesteryear and enter a more melodic, indie-pop sensibility.
Sydney Rentz's understated vocals will remind some of Beki Hemmingway, but with a bit less pop and a bit more of an edge. A beautiful voice that most any guy will fall in love with. And the musicians sound very comfortable with the direction they are headed. While some bands find a measure of success and then continue to put the same album out over and over again, MoFo wants to continue to grow and evolve and move forward, rather than rest on their laurels and live in the past. And this time around band members Jesse Sprinkle and Shawn Johnson head up the production.
Best tunes on the album include "Running," "Choppy," "Sand and the Sea," and "Hopeless." If there is any fault with this album, it is that some of the songs begin to sound too much alike after awhile. A bit more sonic variety would have helped. But all in all this is a disc worth getting.
Ken Mueller 9/9/02
Morella's Forest apparently went through some changes during the four-year layoff from their last release. The most evident on paper are the personnel changes, but paper is not necessary to hear the difference immediately.
>From track 1 - "Running," the listener needs to check the CD case time and time again to make sure this is really the same band that released Ultraphonic Hiss and Super Deluxe. Actually, that is a loaded statement, as it is not the same band. Regardless, this incarnation of players assembled under the moniker Morella's Forest is all about pop tunes. Fans of previous releases will notice the relegation of distortion and fuzz to background sounds, with poppy drums and jangly guitars in the forefront. It's something like the old Morella's Forest minus a large dose of My Bloody Valentine-style fuzz, with then more than a dash of old Sundays or more recent Miss Angie.
Overall, it is a nice listenable release with lots of pop sensibility. However, the lilting and softly-spoken vocals and standard hooks get repetitive after a few songs. Morella's Forest could use some of the droning bite of the past to spice up this offering.
Jeff Edwards 10/7/2002
For those new to Morella's Forest, Tiny Lights of Heaven is pure pop featuring what Big Beef Records calls Sydney Rentz's "beautiful and alluring" vocals. If you're familiar with the band, you may have been disappointed with the vocals being mired underneath instrumentation. Good news: unlike 1996's Ultraphonic Hiss, guitars here are lighter, also bringing a sweet balance to Rentz's voice, keyboards, and drums. From the outset, "Running" and throughout most of Tiny Lights of Heaven, many songs are in a pure pop vein, reminiscent of Belinda Carlisle or the Halo Friendlies (the band cites Stereolab, the Cardigans and Ivys as contemporary influences). There are excellent lyrics in "Shining Stars," "Lullaby," "Sand and the Sea" (much of Tiny Lights may be too '60s retro for many listeners; this one is perhaps a bit too close to "The Girl from Ipanema"), and "Never Let Go." Unlike other projects I've heard from Morella's Forest from their Tooth and Nail days, the listener will find at least two from this collection of the "sticks in my mind" and "I'm humming it all day long" quality. On the other hand, the absence of heavier guitars as featured on the band's previous T&N recordings may be too much of a gear shift for some fans. This project is very short (tracking in less than 40 minutes). Overall, _Tiny Lights of Heaven_ is a very pleasing project and a move in the correct direction for Morella's Forest.
Olin Jenkins November 30, 2002