In a musical landscape increasingly defined by ironic worship and cheap shock-value packaging, the Australian folk duo Luluc feel like something of an authenticated rarity. They got the knowing thumbs-up of legendary producer Joe Boyd (known for his work with Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, R.E.M. and the Nike Drake tribute record Luluc appeared on last year). Add to that an admirably stubborn (and often antithetical, for folk music) inability to produce music that doesn’t make one either fall asleep or weep uncontrollably, and Luluc’s sophomore effort, Passerby, is guaranteed to slowly breath some fresh air into your possibly jaded and/or worn-out ear canals.
Which isn’t to imply that their sound is at all antiquated. Luluc’s strumming ruminations are brilliantly sprinkled with the seasonings of late sixties/early seventies singer songwriterness (lead singer Zoe Randell’s vocals sound like an impossibly compressed blend of Joni Mitchell and Nico), but are constructed with their own darkly unique and unsettlingly agile sensibility.
With the instrumental and vocal assistance of Steve Hasset, Randell’s unadorned rhymes point to the overlooked beauty in daily life (leaves changing, walking schoolchildren, old streets) that is often hidden from us in plain sight. In the same way that Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks managed to explode with images of essentially nothing save for childhood stomping grounds and suburban scenery, Randell’s songs turn the trivialities of our daily lives into something so delicately painted and so passionately delineated, that they are almost unrecognizably real.
Take Winter Is Passing, which details the changes of a tree (“All the trees without their leaves/tap each other in the cold breeze”); or the five-minute standout Tangled Heart, which finds Randell watching “the kids leave from school/little bags falling down their backs.” The track is produced, along with the rest of the album, by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and it features fitting musical appearances from Bon Iver and Beirut for a rare moment of breezy instrumentation that subtly overpowers Randell’s vocals even.
In the same way that big-label bands like Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers have experienced unlikely success amidst endless club hits and Skrillex-y refrains, Luluc is (if on a much smaller scale), fitting comfortably into a music scene in need of occasional tranquilizing. Essentially, Luluc is, for however briefly, allowing us to patiently sit, listen and not immediately forget the music we’re being presented with. Their tactics may be minimalist, and their sound may at first feel archaic, but sometimes pure ingenuity is all musicians really need to be noticed.