Australian Duo Luluc Deliver the Achingly Beautiful “Passerby”

24 Jul

Australia is such a great source of indie pop, rock and folk these days. The Trouble with Templeton. Tales in Space. The Paper Kites. Xavier Rudd. Husky. Those are just a few of the Aussie artists who have released great new albums played largely on college radio in the States since 2012.
Now, there’s another singer-songwriter duo you’ll definitely want to add to your Aussie playlist: Luluc (pronounced loo-LUKE).
Zoë Randall and Steve Hassett create musical landscapes on their new album, Passerby, that label Sub Pop has termed “starkly simple, yet dramatically moving.” And that’s the perfect description for them.
The melodies are gentle, soothing, occasionally lilting, and often tinged with sadness or introspection. Randall has a breathtakingly beautiful voice, and Hassett’s warm voice appears to have been custom-made to go with Randall’s; the harmonies are soft and subtle, almost fragile at times — but never flat or lifeless.
The arrangements in Passerby typically incorporate guitar and piano — with strings and horns or the synthesizer equivalent added in just the right measure.
The album opens with “Small Window” — a song about the heartache of leaving — with its gentle vocals and understated harmonies over a strumming guitar. There’s a light frosting of piano and just a touch of rhythm toward the end. It’s an astonishingly arresting beginning for the 10-song set.
Other standouts include “Tangled Heart,” which offers a slow bounce to a melody that rises and falls. The song includes full orchestration and builds to a somewhat louder instrumental break. The title track, “Passerby,” is a tremblingly sad story about passing relationships. Here, Randall demonstrates how her voice can soar effortlessly to the highest registers. “Without a Face” features sweeter vocals over fingerpicked strings, with a gentling pulsing bass and haunting harmonies. And “Star” offers a thoughtful and very satisfying conclusion, with its string accompaniment and beautiful harmonies.
If you’re in the mood for music that will make you want to get up and dance, Luluc probably isn’t it. But for a Sunday morning or any time you’re in a more contemplative mood, Passerby is a compelling, consistently excellent album with lovely poetry that you will really enjoy.

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