Record Review: Luluc’s “Passerby”
From the first strains of “Small Window”, the opening track to Luluc’s excellent second record, Passerby, the gorgeous and delicately-paced tone is set. As the song gradually unfurls like a yawning lover on a lazy Sunday, it becomes apparent that Passerby, while unquestionably gentle, is an attention-grabbing affair, and one that can leave a listener spellbound nearly instantaneously. Among those who fell under Passerby‘s spell are Sub Pop co-founder Jonathon Poneman, who signed the band a mere 48 hours after hearing the record’s masters, a true testament to it’s deliberate majesty.
Co-produced by The National’s Aaron Dressner, a man who certainly knows how to express himself effectively while exhibiting the perfect amount of restraint, the songs on Passerby feature continually sparse instrumentation, sticking mostly to lightly plucked guitars and barely-touched drums, while focusing on Zoë Randell’s gorgeous, Nico-esque vocals.
Guitarist Steve Hassett and Randell by chance in Scotland during the annual Edinburgh arts and music festival, and knew they had something special the first time they harmonized together. Randell has a very unique and wonderfully understated beauty to her voice, and when paired with Hassett’s gentle harmonizing, the resulting heaven-sent sound is honestly breathtaking. Hassett clearly realizes this, and over the band’s short career has wisely allowed it to remain the enchanting centerpiece to the Luluc spell.
Hassett’s ability to show such restraint with both his singing and playing makes the choice of co-producer Dressner (who provides a lot of the backing instrumentation) all the more wise, as his own playing in The National has long been commended for wasting nary a note, despite his considerable talents. To listen to Passerby is to enter a dreamlike state, with each elegant song floating through your conscience while painting languid pictures from Luluc’s collective experience. A plaintive lover. A quiet moment in a backstage green room where a Nico record plays. A feline friend stretching in the sun. A New York City street scene. All unfold with a vivid beauty that transports you to the exact scene and it’s emotions.
It’s truly moving material, and makes for a very unique listening experience. Literally every time I’ve played Passerby, someone will look up in a daze, as if they just heard a long-forgotten voice from their past, and will ask me what’s playing. Even while writing this review and listening to the album I found myself staring off into the distance, my eyes glazed over in a thousand mile stare while I forgot myself and simply got lost in the music.
Least you think I’m being overly dramatic, Peter Blackstock, co-founder of No Depression Magazine, has said Passerby contains some of the most beautiful music he’s heard in a decade and compared the meeting of Randell and Hassett to that of both Simon and Garfunkel and Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. With so many industry folks falling under Luluc’s spell, you’d think it’s only a matter until the rest of the world does as well.
One can only hope, as Passerby is without a doubt one of my favorite records of the year.
Luluc 2014 tour dates with J. Mascis:
Wed 09/24/14 Hamden, CT The Ballroom at The Outer Space
Thu 09/25/14 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live
Fri 09/26/14 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
Sat 09/27/14 Chapel Hill, NC Local 506
Sun 09/28/14 Asheville, NC The Grey Eagle
Tue 09/30/14 Birmingham, AL BottleTree
Wed 10/01/14 Nashville, TN Exit / In
Thu 10/02/14 Athens, GA 40 Watt Club
Fri 10/03/14 Atlanta, GA Terminal West
Sat 10/04/14 Louisville, KY Zanzabar
Sun 10/05/14 St. Louis, MO Off Broadway Nightclub
Tue 10/07/14 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
Wed 10/08/14 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room
Thu 10/09/14 Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis Institute Of Arts
Fri 10/10/14 Madison, WI High Noon Saloon
Sat 10/11/14 Chicago, IL Subterranean
Mon 10/13/14 Ann Arbor, MI Blind Pig
Tue 10/14/14 Cleveland Heights, OH Grog Shop
Wed 10/15/14 Pittsburgh, PA Club Cafe
Thu 10/16/14 Washington, DC Black Cat
Fri 10/17/14 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Sat 10/18/14 Cambridge, MA The Sinclair
Appearing at “Fun Fun Fun Fest”
Sun 11/09/14 Austin, TX Auditorium Shores
Tue 11/11/14 Phoenix, AZ The Crescent Ballroom
Wed 11/12/14 San Diego, CA The Casbah
Thu 11/13/14 Long Beach, CA Alex’s Bar
Fri 11/14/14 Los Angeles, CA Echo
Sat 11/15/14 San Francisco, CA The Independent
Sun 11/16/14 Sonoma, CA Gundlach Bundschu Winery
Wed 11/19/14 Seattle, WA Tractor Tavern
Thu 11/20/14 Portland, OR Dante’s
Fri 11/21/14 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge
Sat 11/22/14 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge
Sun 12/07/14 Utrecht, Netherlands Tivoli De Helling
Thu 12/18/14 Oslo, Norway Parkteatret AS
A deliberately paced beauty of an record.