Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Deep Oceans/Inertia)
With a song such as Boyish, a beach blanket melody sung by a semi-somnolent teen - like Leslie Gore pining for love just as the second cone has kicked in – with a twang on its guitar that could hang five on a Malibu, Michelle Zauner could convince you that her new album is a quiet, dreamy collection.
And much of Soft Sounds From Another Planet lives up to the title, if by another planet you mean an indie festival tuned into the last decades of the 20th century, but turned down enough to still hear the nearby waves.
Take The Body Is A Blade, where keyboard glissandos splash colour across a low-key, circular Smiths pattern (think Suffer Little Children), or Till Death, where murmuring trumpets and slacker delivery touch lightly on a sorrow that is blurry and amorphous.
Or, especially, This House, where Zauner is not quite as zestful as the desultory guitar strumming and background piano, and Road Head, whose skitty little beats combine with her just-roused-from-a-nap singing for an inner-city Bjork, waiting for the artisanal baker to open, feel.
But there are little burrs in this bed, or maybe the odd pea under the mattresses.
Occasionally it is a reverberation of guitar, as in the feedback-meets-Lamb opening song, Diving Woman, or the torch song title track. At times, it is both incongruity and a burst of energy, such as the way Machinist brings some autotuned modernity to a St Elmo’s Fire soundtrack candidate (yes, you can imagine it is Rob Lowe on the sax solo).
Mostly though it is Zauner’s lyrics. They regularly have the outré turn of the blush-mouthed but flinty-minded friend who is the best companion at the bar for her ability to take down any potential candidate before they even approach.
Sex happens in highway pitstops, ex-lovers still hurt each other by proxy, good things happen but it’s not a given they’ll stay, hostesess pull your boyfriend’s eyes away from you, and death comes to celebrities and that can sometimes matter.
Let the tone slide by and you get the soft sounds. Pull up and listen in though and you’ll pick up the other planet. Interesting.