How would Japan’s Shawn and Yoshimi (Lullatone) follow up their happy set of seasonal EPs? By releasing a song every Thursday for a year, leaving a contrail of joyful, exuberant, child-friendly music in their wake, like 52 toys dropped on the way to bed. We recently featured the duo in Music for Nurseries, and their new explosion of creativity follows the joy of parenting all the way through early childhood, while awakening the inner child in every adult who is able to surrender to its twee majesty. This is happy music, for happy people, and it may even convert a few frowns along the way.
What’s the best way to tackle two hours and twenty minutes of music? If you have a child, try letting this play during an extended game time or children’s party. Lullatone loves to title its songs after little pleasures, so pretend the entire project is “music for making puzzles on a rainy day” or “theme from the year’s first trip to the playground”. Or if one desires, separate the songs by season, dissect them, spin them around, choose your own favorites and make your own playlists. Let’s try that here!
Winter! Here at A Closer Listen, we love winter music. The first 13 tracks provide plenty of cool enjoyment, inspired by frost, snows, colds and finally, melt. “a photograph from the day you were born” is my personal favorite, a warm music box piece, replete with ticking and tocking and a timbre that reminds me of Fisher-Price toys. “symptoms of a scatterbrain” is another favorite that is best appreciated on a sound system, as the percussion wanders speaker-to-speaker, producing a pleasantly disorienting effect. But the entire season is stuffed with highlights, from the drone of “how frost grows” to the lullaby tones of “window weather”.
Suddenly, Spring. Flowers! Bees! Library books! And for Shawn and Yoshimi, a chance to travel abroad. Here we meet some of their friends along the way, connecting the falling cherry blossoms of spring to the melting snow of winter and realizing that all things pass, but that many things begin again. The title that comes closest to describing such cycles: “puddle drops evaporating up into the clouds”. This section yields a sense of freshness, of awakenings, of childlike joy. From Korea to Barcelona, again and again, the couple turns work into play.
O, hot. Right now we yearn for summer. O to be hot again! But we forget that in summer, we yearn to be cool. “an indecisive relationship with air conditioning” summons this ambivalence. But for pure fun, go directly to “polyphonic ping pong”, and listen to the ball bounce around the sound field, seemingly never scoring a point. This must have been some match! Many of the other summer tracks are slower, the result of sticky heat, tar, sweat and the general bogging down of the day. The “transition into September” even seems slightly sad. But never fear, this is Lullatone! They will recover!
Falling into fall. The languid vinyl static of “as night falls earlier each day” exudes nostalgia like sap from a tree. The year is winding down, but at the same time, it’s bending toward the holidays. The leaves fall from the trees like the aforementioned cherry blossoms, one more connection between the transitions. One last bout of melancholy (“sometimes it’s hard to even imagine a bright side”), then the duo gets back up, brushes off its collective jeans, and plunges into the new season with new plastic coats. After making a few final presents (physical and musical), they breathe a sigh of relief and offer “finishing something you worked really hard on”, a swift piece that speeds toward the new year once again.
Thinking About Thursdays captures the rhythms of a year. To listen is to experience the passage of time like a child, with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, eventually landing on a feeling of safety, like the Home square of a game board. (Richard Allen)