Gold Light’s fourth studio album opens with the track “Cannon Street”, but lyricist Joe Chang’s narrative jaunts are far from the surrealistic romps we might hear from other songwriters of that ilk. Chang has a novelist’s imagination and his eye for significant detail fleshing out his stories and characters alike is full of pathos and illuminating brush strokes. His voice is an excellent instrument for conveying the words and matches up well with the instrumentation. Gold Light seldom contents itself with sticking a hidebound folk style and the inclusion of keyboards and synthesizers. These sort of musical contributions are somewhat commonplace throughout the entirety of Zephyr. “The Score” is one of the album’s handful of straight forward folk efforts with harmonica, acoustic guitar, and vocals carrying the day. This is much of more lyrical standard for Zephyr as Chang serves up the first of the album’s poetic meditations on character before place. Exceptional guitar playing sets it further apart.
There’s light electric guitar coloring the second half of “Devotion” in a vivid way. Coupled with tasteful electronic contributions, the tandem adds dramatic weight to Chang’s no frills acoustic guitar and voice approach kicking the song off for listeners. Chang’s songwriting talents are notable for a number of reasons, but the collision of his fecund imagination with an economical style places him in ranks far above your average singer/songwriter. Everything hangs together in the best tracks, as well, a quality fully in evidence with the album’s track “Blood”. There is electronic color present from the song’s first. It ventures further afield of Chang’s core talents than many other cuts on Zephyr, but never still shares some of the same core sound filling each of the performances. It has some of the album’s most involved lyrical content while never succumbing to even a hint of pretense.
“Riverbed” is one of the more beautiful tracks included on this release. Single slashes of reverb spiked electric guitar punctuate the track and gossamer colored synthesizer lines weave and swell throughout the performance. Performances such as this achieve an overall lyrical sophistication that never overplays its hand and achieves effects through a process of accumulation rather than beguiling listeners at once. The penultimate cut “Carolina” is another of the album’s lyric showcases. It’s another layered Chang narrative distinguished by its imagery and turns of phrase. The album’s first eight songs are, however, more of a prelude to the fully realized artistry of the title song and album’s final number.
“Zephyr” has some evocative harmonica playing included in the song but it stands as the finest distillation of Chang’s poetic gifts featured on this release. It doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of the preceding tracks in any measure but, instead, puts an exclamation point on the burst of creativity producing Gold Light’s fourth studio release. It boasts many of the finest instrumental passages recorded for this release and a superb lyric that can stand on its own shorn of music. Joe Chang is an often magisterial writer and his gifts are particularly manifest in the album’s closer. Zephyr deserves consideration as one of the best singer/songwriter releases in recent memory.