For three years, fans have waited for the latest chapter in Lane 8’s discography. With the release of Little by Little, we are transported to series of faraway places that you have to hear to believe.
Three years after the release of his first artist album, Rise, Lane 8 is back with his sophomore LP, Little by Little. Clocking in at just under an hour, the ten-track album journeys through a wide variety of moods and sounds with the aid of some extremely talented vocalists, including Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh, Fractures, and J.F. July.
It cannot be understated just how high the expectations for this album have been. Fans have followed every move of Daniel Goldstein’s career religiously, and once he announced his upcoming album and accompanying tour, the excitement hit a fever pitch. I, like many, could not wait to get my hands on his latest LP and hear what he’d been working on. I was not disappointed.
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One of the things that sets Lane 8 apart as an artist is his ability to draw on listeners’ emotions in a way that feels absolutely effortless.
Little By Little is no exception to this rule. Through his use of several incredibly talented vocalists and some truly inspired instrumentation at various points in the album, he is able to strike musical chords that can make you alternately feel as though you are soaring through the air over the highest mountain peaks or locked in the most intimate embrace.
From the understated, borderline diminutive moving chords of “Daya” to the soulful, heart-rending melody of “Stir Me Up“, Lane 8 captivates the listener with a dazzling array of soundscapes that vary between the obviously complex and the deceptively simple. Each one tugs at your emotions, evoking different feelings as you move from track to track.
Throughout Little by Little, each track stands alone as its own musical work, with its own themes, melodies, and chord progressions, but Lane 8 draws on several musical motifs that make it apparent that they all belong together.
The first is his use of arpeggios as a method to move tracks forward without relying too heavily on basslines or percussion. This also has the side effect of lending a certain levity to them that he can then choose to deepen through the addition of layers in the broader spectrum. It’s the precision with which he makes these choices that allow many of the songs to take hold of the listener in ways that most music does not.
“No Captain,” the album’s lead single, is a perfect example of this tension-building. The entire first minute consists of a diaphanous arpeggio that varies in tempo, floating over slow-moving chords before the vocal comes in. By moving it along initially without the use of percussion of any kind, it allows Lane 8 to determine exactly when he wants to dial up the tempo and the drama or slow things down and create a sense of tension and anticipation.
Goldstein deploys this effect throughout the album, and in varying degrees, sometimes playing with the arpeggios, sometimes with the percussion, sometimes with the bass – and always with your head, however subtly. It’s the mark of a producer who understands not just music, but also emotion – a filmic approach to production.
Another thing that makes it clear this is all Lane 8 is that incredibly organic approach to building tracks that almost makes it feel like they were grown instead of produced.
Take “Little By Little,” the album’s title track. One of the few on the album without an accompanying vocal, it relies entirely on other production elements to give it texture and depth and to lend some sort of emotion to the music.
Listen to it once, and it feels like a solid track with a big hit of drama right in the middle. Listen to it again, and tune your ear toward picking up every time he adds a new element. Suddenly, everything is thrown into stark relief, and the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s this topography that makes the album worth listening to again and again – you’ll pick up on something new every time you do.
The final motif, and perhaps the one that I find the most interesting, is how each individual track seems to have its own unique shape, driven by the volume of sound and complexity of the musical elements contained therein.
Obviously, every track has a waveform, but what I’m talking about is something grander in scale and more indicative of a certain mastery of musical production that many conventional artists rarely manage.
Take a moment and listen to “No End In Sight/Outro“, which is, in my opinion, one of the very best tracks on all of Little by Little. It begins inauspiciously, like so many of the tracks on the album – the trembling chords that open it create a feeling of breathless anticipation, while the beautiful synth melody provides a sharp but welcome contrast.
But the thing that really stuns about this track is how artfully Lane 8 has orchestrated the cycle of building up the tension and then bringing it right back down, creating a wave of sorts. By adding in more elements and allowing them to slowly spiral up into a crescendo, and then gradually dropping everything away, he has the listener completely captivated, waiting on the edge of their seat to hear what happens next.
And does he ever deliver – taking it right back to where we started the album with the exact same chord progression as the opening track, “Daya,” he creates a feeling of completion, of being right back where we started. And yet even here, the music is full of surprises just waiting to be discovered. The addition of a violin and a cello, playing the same sorrowful melody one octave apart, is a poignant touch, painting a picture of a desolate landscape, bereft of that warmth we felt in the tracks that came before it.
One thing that struck me as I listened was that the tracks have something of an ephemeral quality – you’re left with the feeling of having traversed ten different worlds.
Perhaps it’s because Goldstein so masterfully immerses the listener in each and every track, but as I listen, each one feels like a whole new world of possibilities. The huge variance in instrumentation is no doubt in part responsible for this – from the shimmering, Asian-inspired melodies of “Coming Back to You” to the round, sonorous chords of “Skin & Bones” to the filtered, faded chord progressions of “Stir Me Up”, it’s almost like watching a parade of wild animals go by, each one more exotic and beautiful than the last.
The vocals are also extraordinary, and just as was the case with Rise, Lane 8’s music shines the brightest when he is producing with an amazing voice alongside. Fans have no doubt already rinsed “No Captain,” the album’s lead single featuring the gravity-defying voice of Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh, as well as the aforementioned “Coming Back to You” with the charming, sunny singing of Londoner J.F. July.
No less impressive is “Hold On,” featuring Fractures – a meditative tune with a melancholy vocal that culminates in a chilling, plaintive howl that will send shivers down your spine. And that’s not even counting the uncredited vocalists on the hymn-like “Skin & Bones” and the sublime “Stir Me Up,” both of which are standouts in their own right. All in all, they’re phenomenal performances, made only better by an artist who has an impressive command of producing tracks in concert with vocalists in a way that they enhance his signature sound, rather than derailing it.
So did Little by Little live up to the monumental expectations? I think so, and I’m confident that you will, too.
There aren’t a lot of artists out there right now that have the ability to engender such excitement about every single thing they do, but Lane 8 is the exception rather than the rule, and in listening to Little by Little from start to finish, it’s perfectly clear why. It’s not just flawless tracks or exquisite vocals – it’s an emotional connection the likes of which you won’t get just anywhere. And in today’s altogether too disconnected world, I’m confident in saying that it’s exactly what you need.
I would be remiss if I reviewed this entire album and failed to mention one of the things that makes Lane 8 a standout in music today.
Of course, that would be his incredible “This Never Happened” approach to shows, where fans are urged to record nothing and immerse themselves completely in the experience. He will replicate this approach for his upcoming tour, kicking off at the end of this month in Austin, Texas.
If you’re a fan, I cannot speak highly enough of this experience, so head to his website and get your tickets today!
Little By Little Tracklist:
- No Captain ft. Poliça
- Clarify ft. Fractures
- Little By Little
- Stir Me Up
- Skin & Bones
- Hold On ft. Fractures
- Coming Back To You ft. JF July
- No End In Sight/Outro