Retrofitted and refiltered, this is still our music.
Dean Wareham is a liar. On the third track, just past the out-of-character and overproduced intro, the rolling, friendly-fire tease of guitar notes, and some of those trademark faux-cerebral sentiments, the Luna frontman wryly announces, "If I had to do it all again/I wouldn't." Yeah, right. On this, their seventh release, doing it all over again is exactly what Wareham and co. are all about. Doing it all over again is one thing—and Luna fans are perhaps as happily set in the band's quixotic, warbley ways as the players themselves are—but doing it all over again with airbrushed sunsets and string sections is another thing entirely. But this, alas, is often the natural progression; when the songs insist on remaining the same, some big name producer (in this case, Dave Fridmann) is called in to give them a new shine. The Sterling Morrison-ish guitar slang and the smart-ass lullaby lyrics haven't been rubbed out entirely under the polisher's wax, but whether or not songs like "Black Champagne" and "Renee Is Crying" are heard as overly crystalline and sterile will depend on the listener's tendency to take such things to heart. Romantica is a romantic's record, because romance is a steadfast belief in blissful beginnings. But romance, like Romantica, can also be a pretty wonderful thing to believe in. Laura Learmonth
DAMON & NAOMI
. . . on Tour With Ghost
Damon & Naomi continue killing us softly with their songs.
Damon & Naomi on Tour With Ghost works like a seducer. Recorded live in San Sebastian, the record entices with subtlety and charm, calming and assuring before leaning in for the soft, deep kiss. It performs its tender hypnosis gradually: A single guitar stroke and Damon Krukowski's ether-high voice introduces the dazzling, mystic "Judah & the Maccabees," and the record from there is all light touches and sweet breath. That it is a live recording makes the mood more electric; applause rises like the tide between each fragile prayer, and the presence of the audience (however invisible) heightens the music's communal feeling. Damon & Naomi's folk songs are so delicate they seems constantly on the verge of shattering. The lilting "Eye of the Storm" allows a buzzing electric guitar to circle its warm acoustics like a dizzy bumblebee, and the group's cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" aches with yearning and disappointment. Guitars twinkle like distant constellations, and the duo's voices soar skyward like spirits heading for heaven. Damon & Naomi's skill lies in their ability to use their music to cast a spell, and the songs on Tour are so riveting that they are practically hypnotic. Merging churchlike reverence with songs as quiet as snowfall, On Tour is nothing short of miraculous. J. Edward Keyes