Lanterns on the Lake – “Through the Cellar Door”

Lanterns on the Lake: the band’s own sonorous name is the first indication that these are musicians with a thing for beauty. But not too much beauty. The Newscastle, England-based quartet (Hazel Wilde on vocals, Paul Gregory on guitar, Ol Ketteringham on drums and piano, and Bob Allan on bass) like to contrast soaring softness with a hard crash of fuzzed-out guitar and hammering drums, as they do in the first single from their new album, Beings: “Through the Cellar Door.”

This is music for people who like a little drama; it’s not just the pretty, multilayered singing of Hazel Wilde that demands attention, nor the snapping drumsticks, but the production quality, which lets you hear the sound of the room itself. Such a welcome change from the airtight vacuum that so many producers seem to strive for lately. Similarly, Wilde’s voice reaches past perfection to the ragged edge of emotion in ways that reminded me of PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux, two of the best drama queens around.

Writers from Dorothy Parker to J.R.R. Tolkien have mused that “cellar door” may be the most beautiful phrase in the English language. This song flirts with that idea but never lets beauty get in the way of raw power, like a pretty pink balloon tied to stiff, bristly rope, each pulling against the other. The trick is to hold on.