Monday, November 14, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Lullatone - Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures

By Steve Jones.

Lullatone is the Nagoya-based husband-and-wife team of Shawn and Yoshimi Seymour.  Together, they make pajama pop, and Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures is their most recent album, released this October.

"Pajama pop" is exactly what it sounds like: Lullatone is concerned with making airy pop tunes which neither offend nor distract.  While their past efforts have incorporated electronic sounds into their lullabies, Soundtracks is an almost entirely analog affair, filled with crisp guitars, light drumming, jejune xylophones, and several other instruments.  These sounds are combined in different ways so as to create a set of songs to soundtrack normal everyday occurrences, such "Going to Buy Some Strawberries" or "Listening to Raindrops Knocking on a Window."

Whether or not you enjoy this album is going to depend a lot upon how cynical a person you are, because this is a very easy set of music to be cynical towards.  The tracks here are about as twee as twee can be, and many sound right out of a trailer for an upcoming indie film starring a quirky teenager and bearing a titlecard drawn in deliberately crude crayon.  In fact, the press release advertises it as such, and the fact that Shawn Seymour actually does write music for commercials and films should not be surprising.  Dirty Projectors, this is not.

As the name implies, Soundtracks is very much incidental music, so any listener going into it and expecting a sonic assault will be disappointed.  Of course, incidental music is still music, and it certainly has its value.  It adheres to a similar philosophy as lounge music or furniture music--two styles which I love--in that it is designed to accompany.  And, in a world where the ubiquity of music is such that most times we listen to music it is accompanied by some action, perhaps we make more music incidental that we realize.

But I digress.  Soundtracks does what it does well; I just am not a big fan of music this light and inoffensive.  The arrangements are commendable, the recording quality is crystal clear, and many songs have a Shugo Tokumaru-esque feel of conversation between guitars and woodwinds, between keyboards and hand claps.  It feels wrong to fault this album for being exactly what it intended to be, but that's just how I feel.  I left this album with a wanting more in terms of variance and development.

My favorite moments on the album are precisely those which do introduce some new and unexpected element, however minor.  For instance, "Finding a Leaf in Your Girlfriend's Hair" has a prominent drum beat and actually switches up the way it sounds midway through the song.  "The Best Paper Airplane Ever" has a pleasant cello melody and a distinctly minimalist composition style, which I also like.  The same goes for "Brass Practice," a very Philip Glass-esque exercise in minimalism--I just wish the warm brass (y'know, the song's namesake) didn't disappear halfway into the track!  And "A Picture of Your Grandparents When They Were Young," while stylistically consistent with the rest of the album, achieves a tone of somber reflectiveness that is quite refreshing amidst the unabashed sweetness of nearly every other song.

Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures, although I do like it, is just a bit too bland for anything close to love.  However, listeners looking for an album to play in the background as they write, or to listen to as they fall asleep, will find exactly what they need here.  With 15 tracks over the span of 35 minutes, this certainly is not an exhausting album.  It's just a little sleepy, and I think that's how the Seymours wanted it.

Score: Decent-to-strong 6

You can stream/download/buy the album from Lullatone's Bandcamp page below.  Let me know what you think.  Is it really too bland, or have I just listened to too much Death Grips today?

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