This article first appeared on The AU Review.
Everybody knows I have a thing for Scandinavian indie. Swedish indie exports are at an all-time high at the moment and leading the assault are quality acts like electro-pop duo Say Lou Lou. Despitespending well over 90% of their time in Stockholm, it’s also interesting to note that twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kibley-Janssen are one-half Aussie. It’s only minimal I know, but in their latest effort Lucid Dreaming, there’s something inherently ‘Triple-J-esque’ about it all and on first listen I’d be proud as all hell to claim even 1% of it as Australian made.
Kicking off the ordeal at a mountainous high is the single “Everything We Touch”. Released late last year in early anticipation of Lucid Dreaming, the track is complete with deep, brooding verses that build up tastefully into a chorus that’s hard to deny. It’s a powerful song that shows a rock-solid belief in their abilities, leading with the words “everything we touch turns to gold”, and pushing that notion well into the final seconds of the track. Often an album is summed up in it’s first couple of songs. If you tend to fade by track two or three you can say goodbye to my interest, I’ll buy the single. Luckily for Say Lou Lou, I bought into that confidence in the first track because song two, “Glitter” isn’t much to write home about.
You’ll be happy to give this album more than one try, because as soon as “Games For Girls” kicks in you realise the previous track is an anomaly and the rest is hard to put down. This single hit some waves among the blogs of the world because of it’s noticeable difference from the rest of the Say Lou Lou collection. It’s a look into the potential these guys have for dance hits, carrying a steadier, upbeat tempo that could be evident in something like an RAC or Miami Horror remix. “Beloved” treads along the same path as a lot of the other tracks on this album, but it’s a cracker of a song. It’s an uplifting electronic ballad that hits a beautiful peak as it reaches each chorus with heartbreak personified through melancholic vocals.
“Wilder Than The Wind” has something hugely nineties about it. Like a whispered, indie take on Mariah Carey or something like that. Maybe not exactly, I wasn’t too in tune back in those days, but you get the drift. The beat drags a bit in the verses, so much that it can sometimes feel like the rest of the elements should be playing catch up. It’s one of those rainy day songs that might only feel right for a listen if the mood fits.
Their most recent single, “Nothing But A Heartbeat” is where this album truly takes a swing in a whirlwind of pop brilliance. An epic, breezy tune that is dark, but oddly affirming. I guess you could say that for a lot of the singles on this album. Others that came previously on the album like “Angels (Above Me)”, or “Julian” have a similar vibe. Dual vocals permeate these tracks, bouncing between catchy falsetto and solid stand-your-ground type melodies. Like an impressive con, Say Lou Lou play their audience throughout Lucid Dreaming with a sneaky seductive underlying, while being well aware of the fierce confidence they bring in all of their lyrics and melodies.
The album bows out on “Skylights”, one of the more straight forward arrangements on the release. It’s a nice, easy way to go out, laced with enjoyable vocal melodies that chug through at the forefront of a slow-tempo beat and locomotive like synth. It has that outro feel that most tracks do when they’re placed lucky last on an album, and is simply put the logical way to finish this album.
Lucid Dreaming is an appropriate name for this effort by Say Lou Lou. Like a dream, the album is an up-and-down experience. Some of it is powerfully vivid and the other feels half-awake. It’s largely sequential and hazy, streaked with some impressive vocal work ranging from deep and finite to masterfully thin. Where the album shines brightest is when bordering on mainstream pop. The singles like “Nothing But A Heartbeat”, “Games For Girls” and “Everything We Touch” are stellar highlights that will stick in your head, whereas the rest get pigeon-holed in the realm of emotionally meaningful, but not memorable. Overall, it’s a quality album that deserves at least a week or two straight of repeat playing.
7.8 out of 10
Lucid Dreaming is out now in Australia via iTunes and for stream on Spotify.