Caroline: Verdugo Hills
Temporary Residence Limited

As her new release Verdugo Hills makes clear, Caroline Lufkin not only has a strong predilection for one-word song titles but more importantly hasn't lost her talent for crafting intoxicating pop songs of the kind featured on her 2006 collection, Murmurs. If there's nothing on the new album quite as transcendent as the transfixing “Where's My Love,” there's more than enough on the new album to satisfy those who cottoned to the earlier album's pop splendour. Though she appears to have kept a low profile in recent times, she's in fact been performing as a full-time member of Mice Parade for the past few years while also writing material for the new recording and honing her production skills.

That Lufkin's voice is striking is something we already knew; the first time her voice appears on the new album, cooing “In my room I've been swimming” during “Swimmer,” confirms that her singing has lost none of its enchanting power. What is noticeably different, however, is Lufkin's maturation as an instrumentalist and arranger. The songs are more polished on sonic grounds and the programming more sophisticated too. Though ostensibly a serenading lullaby, “Sleep” is undergirded with a beat pattern that's equally crisp and robust, and gives the song a forward thrust it wouldn't otherwise have, and certainly the martial snare pattern that brings “Snow” to a close is an unexpected surprise too. Electronics and treatments are present but used minimally so as to enhance the material without calling undue attention to themselves. When her voice echoes and electronics stutter during the opening moments of “Words Flutter,” for example, the effect is wholly in keeping with the song's sparkling content.

The piece that comes closest to matching the dreamlike allure of “Where's My Love” is “Pink Gloom,” three minutes of angelic balladry where Lufkin's background harmonies gently swoop alongside a lulling backdrop of acoustic guitars and tinkles. “Lullabye” and the closing “Gone” likewise cultivate an aura of incandescent splendour that is more than a little easy to surrender to. Songs such as these suggest that Lufkin's forte is electronic pop balladry above all else, and the relative dearth of heartfelt, vocal-based electronic pop makes Caroline's Verdugo Hills all the more welcome and appealing.

January 2011