This fighting lion is more of a happy, confident lion, saying “Put ‘em up, put ‘em up” in a playful fashion. After all, who in their right mind would want to fight with a lion? That’s why most lions get to sleep all day, twitching their tails in the tall grass. This specific lion, Spain’s Álvaro Menéndez, has used his free time to learn the ukulele, admittedly not a very intimidating instrument, and augments it on his new EP with the soothing sounds of the glockenspiel. One would imagine that the sight of lions playing ukulele and glockenspiel in a field would draw one closer, which would make the lions happy because then they would not have to chase their snacks. Even better if the spectators brought beverages.
As one might predict from the title and the timbre, Sparkling days, sparkling nights is positive from start to finish, a brief six tunes in ten minutes, flying by like a summer sparrow. It’s a bit faster and more developed than last year’s worthwhile EP, When I see the falling leaves turning red by the setting sun my heart is overwhelmed, whose title was almost longer than its running time of 7 1/2 minutes. But is anyone really going to complain about the length of a free download? Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!
I happen to like the ukulele, having been to Hawai’i a few times. I also have two friends who play the instrument, which may be two more than most. The expressive nature of the instrument makes it perfect for short pieces; it’s quick to establish a mood, and eager to flesh it out. On some selections, the ukulele is multitracked. The glockenspiel makes a natural companion, ebullient in its beaming upper register. On this recording, the thoughtful and the upbeat share a common space. The album’s quickest and busiest piece, “setting sun”, is the obvious highlight, sharing a sonic space with the early work of Tim and Sam. ”distant view” operates well as a brief lullaby. But the whole EP flows well as a suite, especially when played right after the aforementioned debut. Menéndez is quickly improving on an already-effective formula, and while a full-length album may be a few years off, we’re happy to have our spirits lifted by these tiny treasures today. (Richard Allen)