“Music has been a lifesaver,” Carlos Del Amo says with a soft smile. “It’s everything we need in life.” As one half of Gold Lake (alongside partner Lua Rios), the guitarist has learned just how true that sentiment can be. Just after releasing their acclaimed debut album, 2014’s Years, Del Amo lost his sister unexpectedly, and then himself had a recurrence of a brain tumor after having surgery to remove it years prior. He faced multiple awake-brain surgeries and ensuing therapy—but never lost his focus. After nine years of unimaginable difficulty, Gold Lake returns with Weightless, a dreamy, shimmering record that responds to the world’s darkness with an inimitable insistence on the beauty of life.
“When something tragic happens, you can feel stuck in a one-dimensional world, but music can take you out of a deep hole,” Rios says. “Listening to music can help build forward motion, to move beyond the pain you face—and the act of writing the songs did for us. That desire to escape is present in all of the songs in one way or another.”
Lead track “Hidden Lovers” exemplifies that multifaceted perseverance, Rios’ immaculate vocals describing the way that love can linger within the strands of a song—each measure a hidden meadow where two lovers intertwine. But at the same time, the track’s combination of smokey Roy Orbison nostalgia and Sharon Van Etten twinkle finds an urgent burn in the quest to live that love beyond even the borders of the music: “Oh, let me come to life/ In a different mind,” she quavers, Del Amo’s guitar lapping at the edges.
The duo have spent the last few years bouncing back and forth between their adopted home of Brooklyn and their native Madrid, with the latter holding a clear sway on the record. “There was an incredible wave of Spanish new wave bands that we grew up with, and of course our core influences have always been UK bands like The Blue Nile or American bands like Mazzy Star among others, and that mixture influenced our writing. Not to mention authors like Lorca and Miguel Hernández, alongside British and American poets like Philip Larkin or TS Eliot,” Rios says, their style a constant swirl of Latin and Anglo- signposts. “Those are things that we’ve got in our system because we just drank them up.” Weightless also boasts the influence of a pair of American rock mainstays: Aaron Dessner of the National and Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. Gold Lake began working on the album with Dessner before the pandemic broke, and finished the record with Taylor later. “Aaron helped us put a drive into things, and Chris helped us with nostalgic, royal synth tones and things to build it all out,” Rios says.
Throughout, Gold Lake amplify their ability to fuse nuanced sonic landscapes and rich poetic lyrics—though leaving the listener with a sense of intimate immediacy, wondering at the vista before them rather than the technical complexity that went into creating it. In fact, that process mimics Del Amo’s own medical experience. Prior to his surgeries, the musician was put in an MRI and asked to think about different things and make movements so that the doctors could see what parts of his brain were “lighting up,” or working. “The first thing I wanted to test was moving my left hand, thinking about playing guitar,” Del Amo says. Rather than a simple recognition of his hand moving, the MRI display lit up across the board, his whole brain engaged in the very thought of music. “The doctor was calling all of his colleagues in to look at it,” Rios recalls. “He was like, ‘It’s insane. It’s fireworks.’”
Album highlight “Weightless Arrows” is dotted through with those lovely sparks, Del Amo’s guitar flitting and darting through the mix. Rios’ lush voice meanwhile matches his constant push, confident but fragile. “Let me believe that all that we are is in perpetual motion,” she arcs, her clarion falsetto standing stark against the night sky, reaching a certainty that Gold Lake can reach some beautiful new world. They retain that hope on the dazzling, hypnotic “Traveller”, the miles traversed mapped in the heart as well as a globe. Elsewhere, “Simple Fire” burns with desire, the spatters of electric guitar and ratcheting drumming reaching the heights of Dessner’s work with The National—though Rios’ shimmering vocals soar steely-eyed over the jagged rhythm.
“The way that we make music now is bolder, less afraid,” Rios explains, her partner’s medical trauma and the chaos of the last few years a constant factor certainly, yet not a burden. And on Weightless, they use those experiences as fuel rather than specter, an example of the weight of the world but also of the ways we can reach past it—through life, through love, through song. “As a young writer you hide behind landscapes and big ideas because you’re not a hundred percent sure of what you are,” she says. “Today, after the last nine years, we are more honest, more telling as artists, not afraid to show who we are at this moment in time.”
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