Review Summary: Time to Leave
During the 15 years of their existence, Lunik has gone through a slow change in sound and style. They started out as a trip hop outfit that started adding poppy hooks to their sound, then basically entirely dived into pure acoustic up-tempo pop to end where they are now, pushing a more mellow, slower brand of pop music. Together with these changes in sound, almost all of the band was renewed, too, with only two constant members: producer/guitarist Luk Zimmermann and, of course, vocalist Jaël. Whereas Lunik’s first albums already were interesting because of their engaging blend of trip hop and pop sensibilities alone, the band later became increasingly Jaël-centric. On itself this is not bad – it is hardly a stretch to describe Jaël as world-class – but it also meant that the rest of band basically became Jaël’s backing band. Maybe that is why their latest albums lacked a real breadth in terms of musical quality, with all tracks seemingly conceived to showcase Jaël's vocal performance but, save for a few brilliant songs, without real staying power. And now it effectively happened: Lunik ceases to exist.
Apparently, things already went wrong some time ago: drummer Chrigel Bosshard left before recording What Is Next
and after the album tour also Zimmermann abandoned the Lunik vehicle. Even this "farewell album", Encore
, was not recorded together, with Zimmermann working in his Berlin studio and refusing to take part in the farewell tour, whereas Jaël stayed in Bern. So it was easy to have rather low expectations for Encore
as all the ingredients for a catastrophe were present: Feeling obligated to give the fans a “thank you” message of sorts, they lumped together some unreleased tracks they had lingering around and, oh, why not, a live registration as a second disc?
But in fact, instead of being a bunch of leftovers, Encore
’s first disc actually ends up being the most compelling outing of the band after they shedded their trip hop roots. Although the album definitely does not return to this old style of theirs (we knew hoping for that was pointless), it does bear some similarity to Weather
in terms of the much higher density of proper hooks, compared to albums like What Is Next
. This is particularly evident in tracks like "Stop the Time", "Rainy Day", "Pessimist" and lead single "Catastrophes": those tracks alone already have more catchy moments than the previous two albums had as whole. Thematically, there have been no changes since Ahead
: melancholic reflections on feelings, relations and doubt. Also stylistically there are no real differences to the previous two albums, except the previously mentioned improved memorability. And then, there is the second disc.
A live registration of "Lunik feat. ZKO" (a concert with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra) can be expected to sound great. And it does. It is actually easy to mistake for a studio recording, save for the cheers and claps from the audience. Again, it is an evidence of just what a brilliant vocalist Jaël is, almost sounding better than she does on the first disc. And of course, the instrumentation is excellent and a fitting backing for Jaël to shine. But as whole, it feels somewhat redundant as most songs are taken from Small Lights…
and What Is Next
, and thus suffer from the same lack of notability, save for rather superb performances of "How Could Tell You", "Last Night" and the classic song "Through Your Eyes". That last song marks the true end of the recording and is a fitting end of Lunik as a band.
Lunik’s last album does not make any radical change whatsoever but it contains enough variety to be more memorable than their previous outings in the same style: mellow pop songs that are just nice
and enjoyable. But realistically, there is no reason to mourn the band’s end as they were clearly in a creative dead end. So for now, we have been given a good collection of tracks to bridge the gap from now until the first Jaël solo release because, and I might be repeating myself by now, it would be a crime to not be allowed to hear her sing again.