The best part of this earnest group of art rockers has always been frontman Craig Minowa, an excellent songwriter who records all of the band's material at his own Earthology Records, a studio "powered by geothermal energy and built partially from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic." Minowa's vision and drive, largely influenced by the death of his 2-year-old son in 2002, has made Cloud Cult what it is—a refreshingly experimental indie rock band capable of brilliance (2006's Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus) and tethered to a sensitive core.
The problem, of course, is Minowa's considerable backstory and sense of purpose can also be the band's biggest drawback Light Chasers demonstrates this precarious balance of outstanding and overwrought in spades.
The good: "Running With the Wolves" captures the big sound and full arrangement that has made some of Cloud Cult's local performances—complete with artists painting on stage—so memorable. The orchestration of "Unexplained Stories" and soaring climax of "There's So Much Energy in Us" also bode well for the live show.
The bad: Minowa's song titles are longer than this review, with nearly every track carrying a subtitle like "Invocation p. 1" or "Journey to the Light p. 2." His lyrics also preach more here, like in the indulgent "Responsible."
Longtime fans will find plenty to like, just not quite as much as past efforts.
Cloud Cult plays the Top Hat Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 9 PM. $15 advance from Rockin Rudy's.