Lullatone: Thinking About Thursdays

Not long ago, Lullatone duo Yoshimi and Shawn Seymour issued the seasons-themed EPs Summer Songs, Falling for Autumn, While Winter Whispers, and The Sounds of Spring, each one presenting the project's signature sound in pint-sized form. In dramatic contrast to that four-part project, Thinking About Thursdays collects a staggering fifty-two tracks into a so-called “instrumental audio journal.” Why fifty-two? Because last year, Lullatone issued a new track every Thursday, some produced when they traveled, for both personal and professional reasons, to distant locales and others recorded closer to home.

Darkness has rarely intruded upon Lullatone's world, and Thinking About Thursdays is no exception. Many a song celebrates simple, everyday pleasures, and much as they've done in the past Yoshimi and Shawn demonstrate a gift for turning the mundane into something magical. Tool belts, overdue library books, cherry blossoms, a melting snowman, car washes, childhood photographs, pine cones, gardening, and train rides are a mere sampling of the activities rendered into musical form.

A less gifted artist (lazier, too) might have simply thrown tracks together using loops; these Lullatone productions, on the other hand, are largely fully developed two- to three-minute songs packed with sonic detail and rich in imagination, and that the pair were able to produce fifty-two pieces of such quality in a year is incredible. Consider “The Extra Opportunities of a Leap Year” as a representative example: after pizzicati strings and harpsichord introduce the song, the arrangement blossoms into a full-scale production until a solo bass interlude appears, itself followed by a lovely, chamber-styled coda—a wealth of ideas squeezed into a three-and-a-half minute frame.

Long-time fans might also be surprised not so much by the music's range, which is something one might anticipate in a project of such scope, but by the extent of the stylistic territory covered. Playful settings (“An Inappropriate Valentine's Day Gift”) and pretty lullabies (“A Blanket of Snow Spotted From Under the Blankets in Bed”) rub shoulders with boom-bap (“Concrete Waves”) and funky workouts that in a few instances even exude a Dilla-like quality (“How I Broke My Parents' Record Player (When I Was Five),” “Working From a Park Bench”). Some pieces could pass for cinematic homages in miniature form (“Masters of Italian Cinema,” obviously), while others play like the Seymours riffing on Hawaiian surf movie soundtracks (“Father-Son Adventures”) and Reich-styled minimalism (“Migration Patterns”).

Electric, acoustic, and thumb pianos, clarinet, ukulele, flute, harpsichord, a Casiotone, harp, and glockenspiel are among the sounds heard, and though each song distinguishes itself from the others, they're bound together by Lullatone's trademark optimism and innocence, regardless of whether the tune in question is joyful (“Lawn Games”), breezy (“Trying To (Not) Work In Beautiful Barcelona”), wistful (“A Photograph From the Day You Were Born”), or downright sad (“Sometimes It's Hard to Even Imagine a Bright Side”). Describing the collection as staggering isn't excessive when the accomplishment impresses on so many levels.

April 2017