Review: Neil Finn and son Liam get dreamy on ‘Lightsleeper’
Neil & Liam Finn, “Lightsleeper” (Inertia/PIAS)
“Lightsleeper” is the result of another crowded house at the Finn residence. The album principals, father Neil and son Liam, get the rest of the family involved — mother Sharon, son Elroy, nephew Harper — and also provide room and board to one of Neil’s new Fleetwood Mac bandmates, Mick Fleetwood.
On the surface, “Lightsleeper” is closer to the Finn family’s foundational Split Enz era than to the more renowned Crowded House productions, with dreamy atmospheres, multi-section song structures and hazy shades of melody providing the framework, not tight pop songs with instantly memorable refrains.
Most of the tracks are father-and-son co-writes, but Neil wrote album opener “Prelude-Island of Peace” with an uplifting, congenial choir, as a gift for Liam’s wedding.
“Meet Me In The Air” follows, its relaxed harmonies harking back to the “Surf’s Up”-period Beach Boys, while “Where’s My Room,” which seems to describe a musician’s unenviable condition near the end of a long tour, begins with what sounds like an updated Roland drum machine and, over seven minutes across various “movements,” keeps adding elements, including a string section that at times emulates the sounds of Philly soul.
The theatrical, character-rich “Ghosts” is where the Split Enz influence — or is that Liam’s more experimental side? — is clearest, while album finale “Hold Her Close” is a lullaby that includes practical tips for parents.
As with any music involving a Finn, the vocals are one of the main reasons for listening and the father-son combo more than meets expectations. Neil’s voice is still a tad sweeter but Liam’s phrasing is very similar and no less expressive and they complete each other fabulously.
Ideal for late-night listening, “Lightsleeper” demonstrates that with talents such as these at hand, it makes sense to keep it all in the family.