Music

Midnight Sister: Saturn Over Sunset

Photo: Nicky Giraffe (Jagjaguwar)

Though thoroughly steeped in the ‘60s and ‘70s music that influences them, Midnight Sister’s sound is indeed now -- a timeless effort for the duo’s first time together.


Midnight Sister

Saturn Over Sunset

Label: Jagjaguwar
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
Amazon
iTunes

2016’s anomalous La La Land succeeded due in large part to its precision in toeing the line between society’s longing for nostalgia and its need for presently relevant art. By conjuring the cinematic magic of a Hollywood now only found in re-viewings of classics such as Singin’ in the Rain, Damien Chazelle truly transported us and displayed the most excellent components of the musical film era. But setting the film in the present with everyday people struggling through everyday issues gave the film the modern relevance that will make the film timeless. This delicate balance so exquisitely struck by La La Land is the balance that newcomer art pop outfit Midnight Sister hopes to find on their debut release Saturn Over Sunset.

The duo is composed of oddball filmmaker Juliana Giraffe providing lyrics and vocals and the classically trained Ari Balouzian whose prior work has mostly been in string arrangement. The two pop novices based in the San Fernando Valley boldly dive into the format for the first time, bringing to mind Andy Warhol’s experiment with the Velvet Underground (except that they actually play, write, and produce the music). The Velvet Underground comparison is an appropriate one as the duo evoke the period of late ‘60s/early ‘70s psychedelic art pop pioneered by Lou Reed and company. And Giraffe’s sweet, lullaby-like vocals fit right into the period like a cross-section between Nico and Karen Carpenter.

The sounds, the arrangements, the production -- everything on this project brings the listener back to that time of flourishing Los Angeles music. And yet there are still moments that ground us back in our present time and place. The opening “Canary”, equal parts dreamy lullaby and nightmare, combines past and present with its digital discord layered over scattered jazz drum soloing. And the ominous, rattling synths of “The Crow” are not dissimilar to something off of Yeezus.

Perhaps more than anything, the bouncy Wurlitzers and “Strawberry Fields” Mellotrons firmly fix Midnight Sister’s nostalgia-pop sound alongside contemporaries like Foxygen and Weyes Blood. Both can be heard on the slinky “Blue Cigar”, with Giraffe sensuously whispering “Every place I go / Ya trancin’ in my zone / Every time I try / I’m dancin’ to a T. Rex song.” “Shimmy” continues the glitzy nightclub persona of Midnight Sister with its funky bass lines and disco beats. The cabaret “Showgirl” also fits the retro Sunset Boulevard scenery while also giving Balouzian an opportunity to boast his arrangement aptitude on a string interlude that whirls like a swarm of bees tossed in a tornado.

The orchestral performances are a highlight on many other tracks from the instrumental “View From Gilligan’s Island” to the lo-fi baroque pop closer “Their Eyes” on which Giraffe opens, “I don’t blame you for being broken / They don’t see shadows like you do / What a shame it is / To have fears that are ten feet tall.” It’s that brokenness and fear people experience that urges them toward nostalgia, toward yearning for something other than the present. That’s what Midnight Sister has provided on this debut: an opportunity to hear “the ghosts who whisper” from the past and to dream in the face of fear, whether that be fear caused by natural disaster as on “The Drought” or whatever the case may be.

Dreaming is a theme that runs through much of the album, like the film La La Land. On “Showgirl”, the narrator’s mother tells her, “If you count the sheep / You’ll fall asleep / Now I’ll leave you / With nothing to do / But dream.” But also like the film, Midnight Sister also urge the listener to live and dance in the present on “Shimmy”: “When we’re alive we will go to disco / Share that groove with me, man / To move to sound / The sound is now.” Though thoroughly steeped in the ‘60s and ‘70s music that influences them, Midnight Sister’s sound is indeed now -- a timeless effort for the duo’s first time together.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image