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Songs That Spin in Circles

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Album Review

Lullatone were born at night, when a sleep-deprived Shawn James Seymour started making a series of gentle, delicate pop tunes that wouldn't disturb the slumber of his girlfriend, Yoshimi Tomida. You could say the whole idea of Lullatone was, as the band's name implies, simply to make lullabies. Seymour and Tomida described Lullatone's music as "pajama pop," and their 2003 debut, Computer Recital, made liberal use of soporific instrumentation: pillows (as drums), hushing noises, and heartbeats. Computer Recital's greatest achievement, however, was not that it made a bunch of hip, quirky tunes that would put a baby to sleep (which it did, beautifully); its greatest strength was in its ability to bend sine tones into warm, human shapes — something that, to say the least, was pretty cool. Since then, Seymour and Tomida have expanded Lullatone's sound beyond its ambient roots — every album since Little Songs About Raindrops has included Tomida's vocals, and Lullatone's original meandering, minimalist sound has become more hook-heavy, organic, and pop-oriented. And while this spirit of adventure has led to some of Lullatone's best work (Plays Pajama Pop Pour Vous is a prime example), it does leave one feeling a bit nostalgic for the minimalist sheen of Lullatone's earliest work.

Given all this, Lullatone fans who have been with the band from the beginning will find a lot to like on the duo's sixth release, 2009's Songs That Spin in Circles. Written and recorded while Tomida (who at that point was married to Seymour) was pregnant with her first child, this album, much like Computer Recital, was made for the pajama set. It's a deeply sleepy album, not simply because of its instrumentation (twinkly glockenspiels, gentle sine tones, feathery percussion, etc.) but because of the album's "circularity" — which is just to say that each track has a kind of wandering-around-in-a-circle quality. This approach has its pitfalls, and a couple tracks fall into forgettable, sparkly doldrums ("A Mobile Over Your Head" is a prime example of this). For the most part, though, the tunes are subtly complicated, harking back to the best moments of Computer Recital. "An Old Record on Its Player" and "A Carousel on a Slide Projector" are lush with weird, distorted music box effects; these tracks are blissed out on swaths of distortion, everything furred with digital sweetness, like balls of cookie dough rolled in sugar. And the hauntingly familiar "A Merry Go Round in the Park" (which almost sounds like a reconfiguration of "Afternoon Nap [For Pets]") recalls some of Lullatone's best early work — all pinprick-sharp bits of synthesized noise, smoothed out and warmed by soft heartbeats. There are other moments where Songs gives a heavy nod to Lullatone's first two albums, but it would be wrong to say that this album is simply a rehashing of Tomida and Seymour's early work. Better to say that the album feels like another piece to the puzzle, fitting in nicely right between Computer Recital and Little Songs About Raindrops.

Customer Reviews


It's like Brian Eno for babies. :)

Great for being productive.

I'm sure that Shaun and Yoshimi know that when they put out these albums, the listener tends to get lost in the music. Now usually this might not be a good thing, but in their case it's an amazing thing. This may be an album "for the kids" but it's really good at keeping me productive. Additionallly, it's really good for sparking that creativity. It's good for nighttime, when you're about to go to bed. Some of the tracks really do slow your breathing and heart rate to a very comfortable level ideal for sleeping conditions. There are a few flaws in mastering, it could be my terrible speakers. But on the planetarium song, some of those sounds tend to peak, and start clipping. Sine waves have a tendency to do that if you're not listening to them on great speakers designed to hit those really high and low frequencies. But all that aside, another great great record from the great sleeprockers of Japan. Highly Recommended!

No more words.

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Formed: 2001 in Nagoya, Japan

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

The delicate lap-pop project Lullatone came together shortly after Shawn James Seymour moved from his hometown of Louisville, KY, to Nagoya, Japan, with his girlfriend and bandmate, Yoshimi Tomida. The two initially met in an intercultural communications class at the Bellarmine University. At one point during class, the teacher asked the exchange students what they had trouble adjusting to in America. Tomida replied that she was having trouble adjusting to American food, so after class Seymour offered...
Full Bio

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