Midnight Sister - Saturn Over Sunset

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2017-09-08

Midnight Sister have put together an interesting album in Saturn Over Sunset. I suppose the standard description would be retro, but that's not quite right. To be sure, the set takes its queues from genres like psych and folk, placing itself in the 60s and 70s, but it more than that, it just feels profoundly analog, almost antique. You can hear every texture of the instruments, and things aren't processed to hell. The production is simple and clean, although there are moments of playfulness and a few scattered oddities. I wouldn't exactly call it lo-fi; perhaps natural is the word. Either way, duo Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian have created something quite distinctive here, a standout in the current musical environment.

A lot of the music sounds like late 60s Beatles with a female vocalist. 'So Young', for example, has an acoustic guitar in the neighborhood of 'Blackbird', and the vocals sound like they're going through a Leslie Cabinet in places. The album overall is piano heavy, with strings and wind instruments adding lots of soft textures. 'Shimmy' works off a melancholy piano melody in the verse, a fragile, wavering sound that makes me feel like a small child watching rain out the window. 'Showgirl' is another in this vein, reminiscent of a tune like 'When I'm 64' with its instrumentation. The audio collage in the bridge would definitely fit on their White Album too.

'Blue Cigar' is a real highlight of the set, coming across as a song from a much more experienced band in their prime, rather than a group of greenhorns. There's something delicate and carefully crafted in this tune. The video for this song is arresting too, as Giraffe has done some film-making and has unique visual tastes. 'Hitman' also comes across as wise beyond the expectations for a debut, leading with a super groovy keyboard and layered vocals from Giraffe, whose voice is by turns breathy and milky.

Lots of tracks have a wavering, warbling feeling, like their a little off kilter and possibly about to roll off the table. This add further to the AM Gold sound, making the set come off like an unearthed period piece rather than something brand new. Which isn't to say it's derivative either. It's just miles away from the over-produced slickness of modern music.

The album uses glittering chimes in a good number of tunes as well, and things do feel a bit too precious after a while, but taken individually, there's nothing particularly wrong with any of them. 'The Drought' uses them early on but collapses into a lumbering menagerie of strings towards the end. 'Clown' is perhaps a better example of this problem. It might be that Giraffe's voice is just too much on occasion as well. It's hard to describe. Each song in isolation is fine, but it just gets tiresome at times.

Still, I can't complain too much. This album is really different than most of what's going on in pop and the indie scene. It feels extremely sure of itself, willing to go its own route and not acknowledging any musical trends or making nods to popular genres. The only other group I can think of I've listened to recently who are in the neighborhood might be Looper, with their sun-dappled afternoon delights. The album isn't weird, it's just... nice. For good or ill. Definitely worth checking out though.

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