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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Caroline Saysƒ?Ý Murmurs of Pop Greatness

By Matt Won

Goddamn you half-Japanese girls.
You do it to us every time.

Legend has it that Caroline walked away from the vapid porcelain-plasticity of J-pop stardom to blaze her own trail winning the hearts of the hoodie-bound across the Pacific pond. Did I mention that she was half-Japanese (or hapa, as we say in my Aloha State)? Okinawan, to be exact. Truth be told, her hybrid vigor may be a key element of her appeal, and Caroline’s likely to knock more than a few of the urbane outfitted off the Cuomo Center for Sufferers of Yellowis Feveris (CCSYF) wagon.

Ms. Lufkin will be unable to escape comparisons with a certain inimitably charming Norwegian IDM princess. Both are irresistible pop confections, providing a cuddle-by-the-fire warmth against the oft-icy environs of electronic beats. Both drip cute like Audrey Hepburn walking ten puppies through your backyard.
So is any serious positive review of this album just a lot of nervous logorrheic sophistry for hipsters who can’t admit to falling lovestruck for this artist? Fortunately, labeling Murmurs a guilty pleasure is to be deaf to the album’s impressively detailed production and the sublimity of its lyrical simplicity.
Opener “Bicycle” begins with mournful trumpets, evoking the wistful melancholy at Murmurs’ pink/black heart. The song doubles as time machine and sepia-toner, a pastoral daydream indulgence filtered through pop songwriting. Its lingering pace and languorously lush texturing make it a tone poem on nostalgia. Chimes and idyllic synth tones swell and fade as this reverie into childhood innocence works its magic. Caroline’s precious voice cuts exquisitely into this sonic canvas with HD clarity, then effortlessly sinks into the mix. “I can’t remember your face / But I remember your bicycle / How it took my breath away,” Caroline breathily reminisces. If you don’t have one of these glorious pastoral memories embedded in the wine cellar of your mind, you’ll have conjured one by the time Caroline sighs “I can’t remember many things.” Hell, I can’t even ride a bicycle, but I know the smile of the sun and the fragrance of the air rushing by “When we went racing down our favorite street.”

The Murmurs moniker is a poetic description of the album’s musical qualities: ambient-tinged production creates a well of sonic depth behind and around Ms. Lufkin as the synths stretch and echo, flittering by to drip dulcet honey into our ears before drifting back into eternity. The production often creates an underwater feeling, floating a few feet under and listening to the whispers of the ocean while watching the sun play in marvelous patterns on the surface. Nautical clicks, static bursts, and Rich James glitches mingle organically with harps, piano, strings, and of course countless paradisiacal synths. Murmurs attains a remarkable consistency despite the use of multiple producers.
Andreas Bjorck figures most prominently, handling four tracks, including last year’s mp3 blog buzz-builder “Where’s My Love.” Caroline’s luminous girl-next-door Mum is on transcendent display here with her cotton candy plaintive: Bjorck knows well that nothing in his Santa sack of electronic treasures can match the enchanting coo of her voice.
Bjorck’s feat, and the album’s hallmark, is the ability to weave a symphony of inflected minimalist touches into a sonorous tapestry that at first blush seems like simple melody. This is a gorgeous listen, offering refreshingly wide-open soundscapes that never lose sight of pop’s pleasure power.

So donƒ?TMt worry Rivers. This time sheƒ?TMll get your letter, and youƒ?TMll have her song.

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