Somni‘s Bloom was one of our top albums of 2018, and we’re overjoyed to welcome Leo Shulman back to our ears with Home. Last time out, we bemoaned the fact that Bloom was a digital-only release, but the new set arrives on transparent aqua vinyl, 500 copies only ~ make that 499 as I have one on order myself.
On Home, Somni extends a signature sound of warm, music box electronics with powdered sugar vocals. A few of these songs even have the chance to cross over, especially lead single “Grown Into You,” also available in a “quickly, quickly” remix. The repeated phrase “it’s in my eyes, and in my head, and in my heart” makes the most pleasant form of earworm. When the track’s pace accelerates, beautiful hums accentuate the tone. Yes, you are home.
Light wordless vocals ride above a soft static surf on “Sometimes” (ft. Harris Cole), a track whose vibe is intensely beach-like, thanks to the acoustic and slightly Spanish-sounding guitar. The music applies to any shore, or even to a person thinking of the shore, like the hooded figure on the cover, looking out a window at a window, a symbol of memory and desire. We each carry a little beach in our minds. The whistling of “Willows” puts us in a mind of summer, patterned towels stretching to eternity, umbrellas extended to an inviting sky. Whenever we become trapped by winter, by illness, by anxiety, by dented relationships, we yearn to return to this safe place, spiritually if not physically.
It’s no surprise that Shulman hails from L.A., but residents know there’s a difference between the idealized L.A. and the actual L.A. Beauty and warmth share space with traffic and broken dreams. Somni captures the dreamlike aspects of the city and preserves them in plastic: an aural version of sunlight in a can. The album’s best non-preview track, “Spring,” is evidence of a heart in bloom, a dream that actually comes true. One may interpret the title in at least two ways: the return of the season or the spring in one’s step. The beats and birds tug the spirit upward like buoys.
In the brief title track, Shulman sings, “I could go home if I want to, and then what?” The unanswered question underlines the dual nature of home as a place and a thought. Home can be outside the home, in the great outdoors of moonlight and leaves, strolling the starlit streets. Whatever makes one whistle and hum lays claim to one’s heart. Finally, in the final track: waves and gulls, giving way to angelic “oo’s” ~ the tone more important than the melancholic words that precede them. (Richard Allen)