They may be best known for their excavation of long lost classics but, in their noble pursuit of ‘changing the world one record at a time’, Canadian label ‘We Are Busy Bodies’ also champion the new and undiscovered. Cue ‘Enough Light’ by Affiliate Links available from WABB, September 9th onwards.
The album marks Bradley Davis (a.k.a Affiliate Links) stepping out as a singer-songwriter after a decade with Toronto based post-rock noise-diversionists ‘Fresh Snow’, making a jump onto a different pathway where he feels “…compelled to make music filled with words and free from the red tape that can go along with a band”. Taking advantage of the summer recess and a break from his day job as a Teaching Assistant, Davis set about writing and home recording with a focus on song rather than soundscapes, meanings rather than moods. Now comes the result of his musical redefinition in the shape of the bravely poetic ‘Enough Light’.
From the back-story you might be imagining some collection of maudlin, mumbled acoustic strummers that ex-alt-rockers can sometimes resort to during any sabbatical from the stacks and strobes, but don’t jump to any conclusions. ‘Enough Light’ is a gently forceful, fully realised record made with integrity and a lyrical flourish. The reference points are clear but there’s no attempt to disguise them. Davis draws on his nineties indie teenage roots, from Mascis to Pavement, Go-Betweens to Teenage Fanclub, as an energy source for the music. ’Enough Light’ is never a retro attempt to sound-like or hark back, it’s a record directly from Affiliate Links himself, right here, right now.
Maybe ‘Recovery Position’ best reveals the album’s currency. A jangling, heartfelt wake that picks over the probability of the end of the music culture we love, told at the time of the lockdown ban. Set to a buoyant indie pop beat with a chorus lifted by bubbly orchestration, it’s a song with that ‘Wake Up Boo’ lyrical sting in the tail where the singer observes:
Absence makes your heart go wonder/we’re architects of our own sorrow….
Davis seems to walk deliberately along such a tightrope on ‘Enough Light’, entering into a balancing act between despair and hope that distinguishes these songs and fuels the music’s momentum. ‘Walk On Water’ is another case in point. The news of Silver Jews founder David Breman’s tragic death, the end of a relationship, the decline of a sea-side town get captured in a slice of exuberant indie pop. The glorious punch of power chords, the crispest snare-beat and layer on layer of the finest hooks (‘everything good will be gone’) stirs up a real potent mix. It’s a cult classic waiting to be found.
As intended the word-craft on the record is key to its impact with Davis revealing himself to be a deft purveyor of the art. Nowhere near poetic posturing, he draws from the everyday to bring out the sharpest pictures, stitching the macabre and the mundane with dazzling effect as on ‘Hudson News’ (We penetrate the fortress/licking wounds that never heal/with our hands at three and nine behind the wheel). When in the same song he dryly croons ‘guts for garters’ there’s a further hint of a pre-plot losing Morrissey devilment at play. Yes the songs are impressionistic but they are not impenetrable, providing a fertile blur between the personal and political so that you can decide on their meaning.
‘Blank Banners’ is amongst the most vociferous. A crunching guitar-led stomp with an anthemic surge, it brings a stark warning against the scale of faceless power and an appeal for honesty. ‘Dedicated Organ’ skirts a similar apocalyptic narrative with heart-aching resignation set to a simmering Triffids-like ballad and pedal steel chiming ‘Conditions Apply’ takes country rock to a mysterious place where ‘you wait for muscle memory to take over and the light of the day to grow sober’.
It might sound like on ‘Enough Light’ Affiliate Links plays the genre hopping game but there is a continuity and originality of sound here derived from the loving arrangements, sensitive mixes (from Ben Etter and Graham Walsh) plus the empathic band of players that Davis has gathered together. For a record with DIY roots, the sound is lush and melodic but never slick or saccharine. The psyche flavoured ‘Walking Wound’ is a stand out, gliding as if Mercury Rev and injected with an urgent brass blow out mid- tune. The misty-eyed chug of ‘Baby’s Changing Stations’ is also up there, taking an irrepressible hook and gorgeous trumpet line to dive deeper into the waves of youthful hope and teenage disappointment. But maybe for ambition and scale ‘Vestigial Stubs’ marks the album’s peak with one soaring sweep from alt-rock resonance to an infectious sway of vocal harmonies.
Neither should the impact of Davis’s own vocals on the success of ‘Enough Light’ be overlooked. Sometimes close to Grant McLennan’s weary beauty, sometimes nearer to a Robyn Hitchcock edginess, it’s a voice that’s understated, unpretentious but uncannily moving. Given air in the stripped back and earnest heart-breakers, ‘A Message From Mary’ and ‘A Message To Anthony’, that open and close the album, it highlights the personal nature of this very fine release.
Perhaps someone from a different age perspective might see ‘Enough Light’ differently but I suspect not. Here is a record that ultimately talks to you, that touches places that we all know and though it comes without demands, deserves to be heard.
Get your copy of ‘Enough Light’ by Affiliate Links from your local record store or direct from: https://affiliatelinks.bandcamp.com/album/enough-light