Review Summary: Julian Lynch returns with a new, refined take on his art-pop sound.
You'd never expect someone like Julian Lynch, an ethnomusicology student, to be able to create something so laid-back and sensual as Mare
. Acting on preconceived notions alone, you'd think that he was some musical stiff, trying to craft some new, artsy-fartsy take on new wave or something just as obscure and/or pretentious. But, his debut, Orange You Glad
, proved that he's beyond calm and charming, crafting personal and eclectic pop gems rather than over-the-top, experimental epics. Now, on his sophomore album, Mare
, he's simply refining this low-key, near-instrumental sound that touches upon several world styles, folksy placidity and melancholic, ambient swells. No longer does Lynch feel the need to interrupt the flow of the album with an eleven minute epic smack dab in the middle of the album ("The Flood"); he's now aware that he does just fine under the six minute mark, and that his genre-synthesis doesn't need to be that long-winded to be successful. And let me tell you what, he's so
much better for it.
The album opens with the engaging, yet surprisingly tranquil "Just Enough," which combines a saxophone, a Latin-meets-American-folk percussion style, and mumbling vocals; it's also emblematic of the album as a whole. Mare
is an intelligent and entertaining combination of psychedelic pop and experimental characteristics. Strange woodwind melodies and acoustic guitar lines take center stage on the album's tracks, allowing the vocals to become part of the instrumentation rather than a prominent melody. This sort of carefree and unobtrusive style only exemplifies the album's haze. "Interlude" is the most literal interpretation of this timbral and trippy sound, aided by a directive guitar arrangement designed to keep the synth and vocal drones from stumbling into boring territory. It's this sort of force that pushes forward the less pop tracks and gears them away from Pointlessville. As well, the pop elements (most notable on tracks like "Travelers") keep the album from becoming sad, angry, or unobservant. Remember: no matter how experimental or eclectic the ideas, Lynch's work is warm and inviting.
"In New Jersey" is a Tabla-bending gem, and the first six tracks are relatively woozy; however, Mare
doesn't intimidate. Lynch's compositions are actually very comforting, no matter how much his signature brand of atmospherics take the lead, no matter how many types of folk music he incorporates into a track, and no matter how smeared the melodies are because of the production ethic. It's this sort of accessibility that elevates Mare
to new heights, thus solidifying it as one of 2010's best releases so far.